Teachers’ leaders have insisted they are “very sorry” for the disruption caused by strike action, as they warned there could be more walkouts to come without a “significantly improved” offer on pay.
Unions are demanding a 10% pay rise for teaching staff, with the dispute already having seen members of the EIS union – the largest body representing teachers in Scotland – go on strike last month.
Now two more unions are taking action, with members of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) and the NASUWT union striking on Wednesday and Thursday.
Union members in 17 local authorities boycotted classes on Wednesday, with action in the other 15 council areas on Thursday – resulting in the partial closures of many schools.
And Iain Glennie, assistant general secretary with the SSTA union, said he anticipated there would be “further strike action in January” unless employers improve their offer.
The Scottish Government has said the latest pay offer would see teachers on the lowest wages receives a 6.85% rise, with others getting 5%.
But Mr Glennie insisted that was “barely better” than the previous offer which was rejected.
Speaking on a picket line outside a school in Glasgow, he said: “The third offer was 5% across the board, more than 90% of our members rejected that and the fourth offer was not materially an improvement on that offer.”
Mr Glennie insisted: “These teachers don’t want to be on a picket line, they don’t want to be striking, they want to be in their classes teaching children.
“But this is the last thing they have available, and they are deeply sorry for the impact it is having.
“But this is what the Scottish Government has left us to do.”
A “significantly improved offer” would be needed to end the dispute, with Mr Glennie saying unions were willing to get back into talks with both the Scottish Government and the local government body Cosla – adding that no discussions had taken place since November 22.
He stated: “We are ready, able and willing to enter negotiation, but if the Government don’t talk to us and Cosla don’t talk to us, there can be no change.
“These members don’t want to be on a picket line, they are teachers, they came into this profession to teach, it is a vocation.
“They want to teach, they are being stopped from doing this. This is what we have to do in order to make our case.
“So we are very sorry for the disruption it causes, but if the Scottish Government aren’t going to make a material difference to the offer this is what is going to happen.”
The Scottish Government has already dismissed teachers’ demands for a 10% pay rise as unaffordable.
Members of the NASUWT union attended a rally at the SEC in Glasgow on Thursday.
Mike Corbett, NASUWT National Official Scotland, told the PA news agency that members are “angered” after being asked to take a “significant, real terms pay cut” for the second year in a row amid rampant inflation.
He warned that the dispute is likely to continue unless employers and the Scottish Government make an improved offer for all teachers.
Mr Corbett said: “There was a revised offer tabled on November 22 but that revised offer, although it was an improvement for those at the lowest end of the salary scale, was exactly the same offer for all experienced classroom teachers and for some in promoted posts it was actually a worse offer.
“So that was immediately rejected by all of the teacher trade unions and I think until employers and Government come back with what is an improved offer for all teachers then I fear the dispute might continue.”
He added: “Our members do not want to be on strike, they do not want to be disrupting children’s education in any way, but their hope is that this, the ultimate thing they can do, actually brings an end to the dispute by bringing a revised and improved offer.”
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said that strike action is in “no-one’s interest” and stressed the Scottish Government remains committed to finding a settlement for teachers.
She said: “It is very disappointing that the teaching unions have rejected the latest offer, the fourth which has been put to unions, which mirrors the deal accepted by other local government workers.
“The request for a 10% increase for all teachers – even the highest paid – is not affordable within the Scottish Government’s fixed budget.
“While councils are responsible for managing the impact of industrial action, I expect schools to remain open wherever possible, so that disruption can be minimised. Any closures would follow risk assessments made in individual areas.”
Strike action is taking place in the following council areas on Wednesday: Argyll and Bute; Dumfries and Galloway; East Ayrshire; East Dunbartonshire; East Renfrewshire; Western Isles; Glasgow; Highland; Inverclyde; North Ayrshire; North Lanarkshire; Orkney; Renfrewshire; Shetland; South Ayrshire; South Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire.
On Thursday, there will be strikes in schools in these local authority areas: Aberdeen City; Angus; Aberdeenshire; Clackmannanshire; Dundee City; Edinburgh; East Lothian; Falkirk; Fife; Midlothian; Moray; Perth and Kinross; Scottish Borders; Stirling and West Lothian.