The 2022/2023 pay campaign was a long running campaign, that included the first national teacher strikes over pay in four decades. Here, the SEJ looks back at some of the key events in the campaign that eventually lead to a pay deal for Scotland’s teachers.
Pay claim submitted
The pay claim was submitted later than scheduled, in February 2022, as a consequence of the extremely long negotiation process for the previous pay settlement.
The EIS Salaries Committee agreed to the pay claim for 2022/23, and this was subsequently adopted as the joint teacher side claim to the SNCT. At the time that the pay claim was submitted, inflation was around 7% and the claim was for a 10% increase in pay.
“Completely inadequate” pay offer rejected
In May 2022, COSLA’s long-awaited response to the pay claim was an offer of a 2% pay increase for Scotland’s teachers. The offer was immediately rejected by the EIS and other unions via the SNCT. The EIS called the offer “completely inadequate” and urged COSLA to come back with a significantly improved offer to avert industrial action.
EIS AGM warns of strikes over pay
The 2022 EIS AGM in June focused heavily on the issue of pay, with outgoing President Heather Hughes delivering a blistering speech condemning COSLA and the Scottish Government over their inaction on teacher pay, and warning that strikes would happen if a fair offer wasn’t made. A pay campaign rally outside the AGM marked the formal launch of the Pay Attention campaign logo, colours and branding.
25,000 signature petition says “Pay Attention!”
In July, the EIS delivered a 25,000 signature petition to both COSLA and the Scottish Government, calling for a fair pay deal for teachers.
Revised offer of 3.5% – or is it 5% – leads to ballot of EIS members
COSLA and the Scottish Government finally came back with a revised pay offer in late August. Initially, their revised offer was for 3.5% – which the EIS indicated it would reject – before being withdrawn and remade as a 5% offer. The EIS indicated it would open a consultative ballot, advising members to reject the offer and to gauge members’ views on taking strike action.
Overwhelming rejection of 5% pay offer
In mid-September, EIS members delivered a very clear rejection of the 5% offer, with 94% of members voting to reject in the consultative ballot. 91% of members also indicated a willingness to take strike action, in a ballot with a turnout of 78%.
This led to formal rejection of the offer via the SNCT, and the formal declaration of a dispute – a clear marker of the intent to take strike action in pursuit of a fair pay settlement.
Statutory ballot delivers overwhelming strike mandate
November brought the result of the EIS statutory ballot, with 96% of members voting for strike action on a turnout of 71%. This overwhelming mandate, which smashed through the anti-trade union act thresholds, was delivered despite the ongoing postal strikes impacting on ballot paper delivery and return.
First national teacher strike on pay in four decades commences
EIS members across the country walked out on strike action on 24 November, resulting in every school in mainland Scotland being closed for the day. A late attempt by the Scottish Government and COSLA to present a “new” offer – essentially the previously rejected 5% offered rebranded – fails to fool EIS members, who support the strike in huge numbers.
Strikes continue as New Year dawns
Two further days of national strike action – one in primary schools, the other in secondary schools – took place in early January, shortly after schools returned from the winter break. Support from EIS members was again extremely strong – but no new pay offer was received at a meeting of the SNCT.
Rolling programme of strike action keeps the pressure on
A 16-day programme of rolling strike action commenced in mid-January, with schools in two local authority areas on strike each day over the period. This helped to keep the dispute in the news over a prolonged period, while limiting the impact on each individual member.
Revised pay offer fails to hit the mark
Mid-February brought a revised pay offer from the Scottish Government and COSLA – although the detail of the offer was provided to the media before it was provided to teaching unions, in a clear breach of negotiating protocol. The offer was unanimously rejected by the EIS Salaries Committee, and the union agreed to move ahead with its programme of strike action.
Targeted strike action piles the pressure on politicians
February also brought an escalation in strike action, with targeted strikes in the constituencies of key politicians including the First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary for Education. Although the tactic may have been controversial, it was highly effective – targeted action brought COSLA and the Scottish Government back to the negotiating table, and was key in the delivery of an eventual settlement.
National strike action continues
A two-day national strike in all schools on 28 February – 1 March piled ever more pressure on COSLA and the Scottish Government to deliver an acceptable pay offer to Scotland’s teachers. The EIS warned that further targeted strike action, due to take place the following week, would go ahead if no improved offer was presented by the end of the week.
Final offer received – EIS opens ballot and recommends acceptance
On Friday 3rd March, an improved offer was received following discussions via SNCT Extended Joint Chairs. EIS Salaries Committee unanimously agrees to ballot members on the offer, and overwhelmingly votes to recommend acceptance of the offer. Executive Committee suspends all strike action while members are balloted on the offer.
Members vote 90% in favour of accepting pay offer
At 10am on Friday 10th March, the EIS ballot on the pay offer closes and the result is announced to a meeting of EIS Council. 90% of members vote to accept the offer, on a turnout of 82%.
Pay offer formally accepted – strike action ends, and Pay Attention campaign concludes.
On Tuesday 14th March, a meeting of the SNCT Teachers’ panel votes to accept the pay offer. This brings to an end the pay dispute, and delivers a pay settlement worth 7% for 2022/23, 5% from April 2023 and an additional 2% from January 2024. This totals a 14.6% cumulative pay increase for most teachers and associated professionals over a 24 month period, from April 2022 to August 2024.