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Sturgeon should intervene in teacher pay row, say unions

Teachers need a “peacemaker” to prevent further strike action with Nicola Sturgeon urged to intervene to facilitate an improved pay offer, trade unions have said.

A pay offer which prioritises salary increases of up to 6.85% for the lowest paid teachers and a 5% rise for the highest paid, was rejected by unions.

NASUWT Scotland and the Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) continued their second day of strike action on Thursday, following mass school closures on November 24 when the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) went on strike over pay.

Speaking during a rally organised by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) on Thursday, Seamus Searson, general secretary of the SSTA, said teachers were willing to go on strike again in the new year if a reasonable offer was not made.

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He told the PA news agency: “We need a resolution; it doesn’t matter who comes (to the table).

“If the First Minister is willing to come in and talk to us, then the sooner the better. But the offer they have made at the moment is not what we’re after.

“It’s not enough so we do need somebody to come in and be the peacemaker to get this resolved.”

Mr Searson took aim at the Education Secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville, as he accused the Scottish Government of “stringing” teachers along.

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He said: “Teachers are very angry. They feel they have been messed about. They feel they haven’t been shown proper respect.

“The Government didn’t think teachers would take strike action but teachers have been forced into this because we’re trying to get a pay deal that should have been paid in April.

“The Education Secretary needs to find some money and come to the table to get this situation resolved. At the moment, we just feel that they are stringing us along.”

It was a feeling echoed by Andrea Bradley, general secretary of the EIS, who said: “We’ve spent months now convincing, or seeking to convince, the Education Secretary of the worth of the teachers’ pay claim.”

The union has announced a further 16 days of strike action starting in January, with walk-outs planned in two local authorities each day.

She suggested an intervention from the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, should take place “sooner rather than later”.

A spokesman for the First Minister told journalists on Thursday he was “not aware of any specific” interventions planned by Ms Sturgeon “beyond what we’ve said already”.

“The Education Secretary was saying yesterday we understand the point teachers are making, but equally there needs to be a recognition and an understanding that we’re operating within very tight finances which are already significantly shortened by inflation,” he added.

“We have to be realistic on that basis.”

When asked if teachers’ unions were unrealistic in the calls for a 10% pay increase, the spokesman said the Scottish Government was “sympathetic” to the plight of teachers but that pay offers had to be “affordable” and there was no “bottomless pit of cash”.