Welcome to SEJ Digital April 2023

At last, it’s settled

After more than a year, the pay campaign is finally over. Since early 2022, the EIS has been campaigning for a fair pay settlement for Scotland’s teachers. Now, after many long months of negotiations, campaigning and the first programme of national teacher strike action on pay in four decades, a settlement has finally been reached.

It is deeply regrettable that Scotland’s teachers were forced into taking strike action by employers and a government who, for most of the past year, seemed unwilling to pay attention. Instead of listening to teachers and engaging constructively with unions, for far too long they stuck their heads in the sand and refused to make a fair pay offer to Scotland’s teachers.

From an initial, profoundly insulting, offer of a 2% increase for 2022/2023, they moved to 3.5%, then 5%, then 5% again…a figure they stubbornly refused to move on for around half a year. Eventually, as the reality of strike action in schools continued to pile pressure on politicians, they moved to 6% and – eventually – 7% for the year.

This final increase to 7% came as part of a 28-month package, running from April 2022 (backdated) until July 31st 2024, which has a total cumulative value of 14.6%.The pay deal, which has now been formally agreed through the SNCT, offers pay certainty for teachers until the middle of next year. While the deal does not meet all of the aspirations of teachers or union negotiators, there was a strong view that it was the best deal that could be achieved in the circum-stances – and a massive improvement on what was originally being offered.

Although the deal is a 28-month agreement, it is important to remember that 12 of those months have already passed, and the next pay settlement for Scotland’s teachers is now due to be delivered in August 2024. It is hoped, also, that the move of the settlement date from April to August will help make future negotiations run more smoothly with less chance of lengthy delays caused by local or national election periods.

In the meantime, the pay of most of Scotland’s teacher will have increased by 12.3% by this April, and then by 14.6% by January of next year – with a further pay settlement to be negotiated payable from August 2024.There is absolutely no doubt that it is the strength of collective action by EIS members that has delivered this pay settlement. By standing together – both figuratively throughout the campaign and literally on picket lines – it is EIS members who forced the Scottish Government and COSLA to pay attention and to deliver a fair pay settlement for Scotland’s teaching professionals.

Just like the last major campaign of industrial action on pay, some forty years ago, it was the willingness of EIS members to take strike action – including crucial targeted action aimed at politicians – that led to a satisfactory resolution. And, again just like the 1980s campaign, the end result was a significant cumulative pay increase that was well above what government had initially wanted teachers to accept.

Now that the pay campaign and the programme of strike action are over, teachers can once again devote their full attention to what they want to be doing – supporting pupils in the classroom to ensure that all young people can make the most of their education.

The programme of strike action was a reminder to many, of the invaluable job that teachers do, day in and day out. Education is the bedrock of our society, it is an essential foundation for all other aspects of our lives – and it is teachers who are essential to its success. In the future, government and local authorities must be far more mindful of that fact.

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April 2023

Vol 107 / Issue no. 02 / April 2023