Schools across Perth and Kinross were closed yesterday in what was the first day of national strike action for teachers over a pay dispute in nearly 40 years.
And further industrial action could take place in December according to Scotland’s largest teachers’ union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS).
Picket lines were visible outside local schools – including Crieff High, Robert Douglas Memorial, Moncreiffe Primary, Perth Grammar, Perth Academy and Perth High – as well as the council’s headquarters at 2 High Street.
It comes after EIS members earlier this week rejected the Scottish Government and Cosla’s revised pay offer to teachers.
The fourth offer made included an increase of up to 6.85 per cent, resulting in a salary of just over £35,000 for a qualified teacher.
Higher faculty roles would have gained a five per cent increase under the offer, taking the annual salary to just over £44,000.
However, the EIS and Association of Head Teachers and Deputes Scotland (AHDS) unions voted to proceed with industrial action instead, with the former’s union leader labelling it an “insult”.
The EIS is campaigning for a 10 per cent increase and said in a statement the offer that was presented provides no additional money and is “worse” than those previously rejected.
EIS general secretary Andrea Bradley said: “This offer is nothing less than an abject insult to Scotland’s hard-working teaching professionals.
“Teachers overwhelmingly rejected a five per cent offer more than three months ago and now, after months of prevarication and weeks of empty promises, Cosla and the Scottish Government come back with an offer that is worth the same five per cent to the vast majority of teachers.
“This is not, as the Scottish Government claims, a progressive offer – it is a divisive offer, made on a differentiated basis, which is actually worse for many teachers in promoted posts.”
As a result of the strikes the local authority closed all schools on Thursday “in the interests of pupil safety”.
Head of education and learning with Perth and Kinross Council, Sharon Johnston, said: “We understand how frustrating and difficult this situation will be for many families.
“However, we cannot operate schools safely without the required number of staff and so have taken the difficult decision to close all schools.
“Negotiations are continuing at a national level and we will continue to update parents and carers about the impact of the dispute on our schools.”
On top of the strike action this week, EIS has also warned that further walkouts in December cannot be ruled out.
Union bosses also confirmed that primary teachers will strike on January 10 and secondary teachers on January 11, with further industrial action being planned for February.
Secondary school teachers in the region are also planning strikes in a dispute over pay on December 7-8, organised by Scotland’s second largest teachers’ union.
The Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) claims not a single penny has been put forward in any fresh offer since the last one in August.
They insisted that “teachers have had enough” and are now being forced to act.
In regards to further strike action in the coming months, a PKC spokesperson said: “We note the announcements by the trade unions and are currently considering the implications for our schools.”
The Scottish Government said that if the latest offer had been accepted it would be a cumulative pay increase for most teachers of 21.8 per cent since
Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville called it “a fair offer” which “recognises the cost of living crisis” and said a flat 10 per cent rise for teachers was “unaffordable”.
She added: “The financial situation for the Scottish Government is challenging and additional money for teacher pay means reduced public services elsewhere.
“In these challenging times it is important we focus our attention on those who are most impacted by the cost of living crisis, as well as ensuring fairness to all public sector workers.”
As part of Thursday’s strikes all kids clubs and wraparound care were also closed, but school lets remained open.
Free School Meal payments were still made directly to those on the programme and who are in receipt of qualifying payments.