Teachers Should Halt Strikes To Keep Schools Open, Says Minister



Teachers should halt strikes to keep schools open, says minister

Teachers should suspend their strike action while pay talks continue to allow schools to stay open, the education secretary has said.

Shirley-Anne Somerville called for “more compromise” as pupils move closer to the exam season.

Members of the EIS union have held three weeks of rolling strikes affecting two council areas each day.

The union has accused the Scottish government of “a complete lack of urgency” to end the dispute.

The last day of the current action will take place on Monday in Inverclyde and Shetland.

And the EIS has refused to rule out further walkouts during the exam period and said its strategy was being kept “under review”.

The education secretary previously said there will be no new pay offer for teachers and that the union’s requested 10% pay rise is unaffordable.

The current 5% offer includes rises of up to 6.85% for the lowest-paid staff.

Ms Somerville told BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show that local government body Cosla and the unions “remain some way apart”.

But she called for more talks in the coming week.

“Trade union colleagues have their mandate to strike and I absolutely respect that.

“But what we could see, as we have seen in other sectors, is a suspension and no further strike dates while talks are continuing.

“I’ve asked trade unions to look at that – they have so far refused. But, particularly as we move forward to exam season, I would like them to consider it.”

She added: “I would hope that everyone involved would be able to agree that we do not want exams disrupted.

“As you would expect, Scottish government is working with local government and the SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) to make sure contingencies are in place.

“But I would like to think, for the benefit of children, young people and parents across the country, it wouldn’t be too difficult for trade unions to say we absolutely respect children and young people’s right to be able to carry out their exam and not have any threats to that hanging over them.”

EIS salaries convener Des Morris, who is party of the union’s negotiation team, said nothing in the government’s stance had changed during six months of pay talks.

He told The Sunday Show: “It should come as no surprise that our members are out on picket lines.

“We want this dispute resolved as quickly, and in as timely a manner, as possible. But we keep our industrial action strategy under review.

“The dates that we have are set out an publicly available.

“It is up to Scottish government and Cosla to back up their public statements about compromise and movement with actions that match that in the room.”

‘Lost trust’

Scottish Labour have accused the government of “doing nothing to win back the lost trust of teachers and parents”.

The party’s education spokesperson Michael Marra said: “While the cabinet secretary goes on television to attack teachers, her government brings nothing new to table in negotiations.

“It is now months since any offer was made and the unions have nothing further to put to their members.

“Unless a resolution is found soon, our children will miss out on even more vital education and our teachers will remain feeling undervalued and overworked – all because the SNP are unwilling to find a compromise that works for everyone.”

Scottish Conservative education spokesman Stephen Kerr said Ms Somerville had “once again passed the buck to teaching unions to resolve this dispute, rather than recognising it’s her job to break the impasse”.

He added: “The public will rightly be wondering why pupils and parents are being treated with such contempt by Shirley-Anne Somerville.

“The onus is on the SNP government to resolve this so that pupils approaching vital exams can have the stable education they rightly deserve.”

Source – BBC News



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