Industrial action in schools is in no one’s interest, least of all that of pupils, parents and carers, who have already faced significant disruption over the past three years.
It is disappointing that the unions have rejected the latest pay offer. If they had accepted the offer of 5 per cent teachers would have received a cumulative pay increase of 21.8 per cent since 2018.
The Government has a strong record of support for teachers, and we are absolutely committed to supporting a fair pay offer through the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, which is the body that negotiates teachers’ pay and conditions of service.
The cabinet secretary will be well aware that teachers are not the only public sector workers who have been forced to look to industrial action over pay and conditions. This year alone, cleansing and refuse workers have taken industrial action, railway workers are still taking industrial action, and healthcare workers look set to take industrial action for the first time in their history. Now it looks as though teachers will do the same.
When will the Government get its head out of the sand, start treating workers in the public sector with some respect and actually pay them what they deserve in order to keep ahead of inflation?
As the member will be well aware, the Government is absolutely committed to delivering a fair settlement for public sector workers. That has been demonstrated in the work that has been going on, particularly in the wider local government family.
I say to the member that the Scottish Government already has a fully committed budget and it has used reserves in full to deliver the 2022-23 budget. There is no capacity to borrow to meet pay pressures and we are not permitted to raise taxes in year. Therefore, as the Deputy First Minister has outlined to Parliament, a range of savings have already been made to enable us to increase the pay offers to public sector workers and to mitigate the cost crisis.
To fund any increased pay offer to teachers, further cuts to existing commitments would have to be made. That work is on-going, and I am determined to ensure that we have a good, fair and collaborative discussion with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the unions as we take forward the matter in what is a very financially difficult and challenging time.