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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Teacher’s strike in Scotland affecting schools across the country

Scotland’s Education Secretary has said she will leave “no stone unturned” to quickly resolve teacher strikes affecting schools across the country.

But Shirley-Anne Somerville said there was still “some distance” between the two sides in the pay dispute.

She told MSPs: “No one wants to see a strike in our schools.”

Most of Scotland’s primary schools were closed on Tuesday and secondary schools will be closed on Wednesday.

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The latest talks between unions and Scottish Government officials, which took place on Monday, failed to prevent strike action.

Members of the Education Institute of Scotland (EIS), NASUWT, the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) and the Association of Headteachers and Deputy Heads (AHDS) are taking part in the strikes.

They rejected a 5% pay rise and argued for 10%. The latest offer includes increases of up to 6.85% for the lowest paid staff.

Conservative Stephen Kerr spoke about Monday’s proceedings as the Scottish Parliament resumed after the winter break.

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“Teachers are on strike for the first time in 40 years because they have been repeatedly let down by this SNP government,” he said.

Somerville said the talks were “constructive” and added that she could not provide further details during the negotiations.

Referring to the “anti-union” legislation at Westminster, she said: “I will not take any lectures from Mr Kerr or any other Tory member of this parliament that we should be doing more to actually settle disputes.”

The Lib Dems’ Willie Rennie asked if there would be a new offer for teachers, saying: “The Education Secretary seems very cool and relaxed.”

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Somerville said both sides of the dispute would have to compromise to reach a resolution, adding: “We’re obviously going to leave no stone unturned to try and get this done as quickly as possible.”

She previously told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland that the union’s pay demands were “simply unaffordable”.

Mike Corbett, NASUWT national representative for Scotland, said: “The reality that we are talking about is progress in itself, but I have to say that there is still quite a gap between what is on the table and what teachers are looking for.

“The last offer was disguised as an improved offer, but for the vast majority of teachers, the 5% offer that had been in effect for months remained.

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Mr Corbett said since 2010 teacher pay had historically been “worse and worse”, which was reflected in recruitment and retention figures.

The EIS said it still hopes for a resolution before more strikes take place next week.

Its general secretary Andrea Bradley said: “It is disappointing, although not surprising, that no new offer has been put forward, despite some positive progress in discussions.

“The union remains willing to talk at any time with the goal of reaching a resolution to this dispute.

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“While it is now too late to stop this week’s school strike action, we hope that new talks can take place later this week to progress discussions towards a better offer. Only a significantly improved offer from the Scottish Government and Cosly can bring an end. ” to this dispute.”

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