Teacher strikes send an "embarrassing lesson" to the Scottish Government on fair pay

Created on: 08 Dec 2022 | Last modified: 20 Apr 2023

The EIS General Secretary has said that the Scottish Government is being given an “embarrassing lesson” by the first national teachers strikes on pay since the time of the Thatcher government.

Andrea Bradley, speaking at the Scottish Trade Unions Congress (STUC) Mass Lobby of Parliament said, "The EIS, along with every other teacher trade union in Scotland, is in the middle of a major dispute with the Scottish Government and COSLA over pay. And it's worth noting that 80% of our collective membership are women.

"Two weeks ago, EIS members were forced into taking strike action over pay for the first time in 40 years - not since Thatcher was in Downing Street have our members been left with no other option but to strike for fair pay. There’s an embarrassing lesson in that for the Scottish Government today."

"More than 9 months of negotiations have brought nothing but a series of offers that amounted to deep real-terms pay cuts when teachers’ wages have already lost 25% of their value since 2008. A starting offer of 2% - even less than last year’s 2.2% settlement - underlines that the other side have been intent on game-playing from the outset and trying to get a settlement for the cheapest possible price rather than delivering a fair pay award for a majority female cohort of workers. That doesn’t add up when you’ve got stated commitment to closing the gender pay gap."

Ms Bradley added, "Today our colleagues in the SSTA and NASUWT are striking the length and breadth of the country as part of the same dispute. Solidarity to them. We will be striking again in the new year unless the Scottish Government and COSLA can get into the Christmas spirit, stop being Scrooges and bring a decent offer to the table before the holidays. The EIS and the other unions have given them plenty of options to think about.

"Ten months after our pay claim was submitted, it's way past time that they gave some serious thought to those options instead of dismissing them out of hand or ignoring them altogether because it doesn’t suit their political agenda. Because if they don’t come back to the table with something sensible very soon, we’re looking at teacher strikes on the 10th and 11th January – primary first, then secondary; and for 16 days solid from 16th January until 6th February rotating across all local authorities."

Ms Bradley continued, "One day of strike action is a big deal to our members. They want to be in their classrooms with their young people, teaching them, caring for them, helping combat the impact of poverty on the quarter of kids who’re in it through no fault of their own or of their families. One day of a strike action is a big deal; 18 days across January and February is a huge deal but the fact that they’re prepared to do it demonstrates the strength of our members’ resolve in this dispute."

"They won't accept another deep real-terms pay cut. Our members - mostly women - have got homes to keep, bills to pay, their own kids to feed and clothe…And they’re feeding kids in school, buying them clothes and essential materials and equipment that families can’t afford and that schools can’t afford…because the overall investment in Education as a vital public service just isn’t enough. And that's not the responsibility of teachers - that’s the responsibility of the Scottish Government and local authorities."

"In our dispute, the Scottish Government has disgracefully tried to spin it that teachers asking for fair pay will cost children and young people free school meals, ASN support - will even undermine support for Ukrainian refugees…trying to make a group of workers feel guilt and shame about asking for fair pay."

"The Scottish government has been talking a lot about democracy these past few weeks, and how important it is. When 96% of EIS members vote to reject 5% and then when 96% vote to strike for better - if you care about democracy, you don’t bring 5% or worse back to the table. That’s disrespectful of trade union democracy and completely flies in the face of Fair Work. And so do the strike breaking tactics of COSLA this week that have sought to intimidate EIS members into undermining the action of striking SSTA and NASUWT colleagues by covering their classes. Shameful."

"The additional funding needed for the teachers’ pay claim is £175 million…less than a tenth of last year’s £2BN Scottish Government underspend. The Scottish Government budget has taken a 4% real-terms hit; teachers and their families are facing more than double that pain with a 9% real-terms cut to their incomes this year alone. No one should be putting up with this. Teachers and other public sector workers - the majority of them women - have said enough is enough."

Ms Bradley concluded, "The STUC and all unions within it are demanding better for Scotland…Scottish Government - it’s past time for you to walk the walk and not just talk the talk."