The EIS has warned that the pay of Scotland’s teachers must be substantially improved this year if strike action in schools is to be avoided.
The EIS and other unions will shortly enter new negotiations with local authorities and the Scottish Government on the 2018/2019 pay settlement for Scotland's teachers via the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT).
While the EIS values the SNCT and remains committed to good-faith negotiations, it is also warning that another sub-inflation level pay rise is unacceptable and that pay must be restored to pre-austerity levels or teachers will move to industrial action this year.
Commenting, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, "The clear message that teachers wish their employers and the Scottish Government to hear is that 'enough is enough' and that the era of real-terms pay cuts must end.
"For far too long, teachers have been paying the price of austerity-driven cuts prompted by a financial situation that was not of their making. This has led to a decade-long decline in teachers' pay with serious implications for teacher recruitment, retention and for education provision across the country.
The sad truth is, that for many highly qualified graduates, teaching is simply no longer an attractive career option. As graduate pay in other professions has increased, it has become ever more difficult to attract people into teaching – particularly in some parts of the country and in STEM subjects where pay in industry is substantially higher."
Mr Flanagan added, "The policy of austerity and the decision to cut teachers' pay were political choices, and were not born of necessity. A recent major study by the OECD highlighted that the fall in teacher salaries in Scotland over the past decade was in stark contrast to the picture in most other OECD countries, where levels of pay for teachers actually increased over the same period.
"This demonstrates that, far from being an inevitable consequence of the global economic situation, a political choice was taken to cut teachers' pay in this country – and this has been a decision with serious consequences for Scottish education."
Mr Flanagan continued, "Small steps have been taken to address the recruitment issues that exist in many schools, but it clear that much more needs to be done – with levels of pay the most important issue to be addressed.
"The recent long-overdue pay settlement for 2017, only finally agreed in December, did take the welcome step of restoring supply teachers’ pay rates to the correct level based on level of experience but again awarded a below-inflation pay increase for all teachers. This is unsustainable in the context of continuing recruitment difficulties, and must end."
Mr Flanagan added, "The EIS will enter into this year’s SNCT discussions in good faith, and we will hope that a fair agreement can be reached quickly through negotiation.
"We are very clear, however, that the Finance Minister’s 2% 'offer' will not be acceptable to Scotland’s teachers. We go into these discussions with a very clear objective – to achieve a meaningful pay award that will start the process of returning teachers' pay to pre-austerity levels.
"We hope that the Scottish Government and local authority employers, who have repeatedly spoken of the high value that they place on teachers, will commit to paying a fair salary – comparable to other professions and teachers in other countries – to all teachers working in Scotland."
Mr Flanagan concluded, "The EIS is committed to a major campaign to improve teachers' pay in the year ahead. We hope to achieve this through negotiation, but stand fully prepared to take all options – including industrial action – to ensure that teachers receive the fair pay increase that they deserve.
"The EIS Executive, which meets next week, and Council will shortly agree the terms of our pay claim for this year and our strategy for ensuring it is delivered. After many long and painful years of pay freezes, pay cuts and pay caps it is time for a pay increase to ensure that all of Scotland’s teachers receive the enhanced salary that they deserve."