Nicola Sturgeon has defended the “fair pay offer” made to teachers as school staff prepare for more walkouts over the dispute.
Teachers rejected the offer which would see those earning under £40,107 receive an increase of £1,926 per year – 6.85% for the lowest earners – while those on more would get 5%.
The First Minister said the offer was on a par with what other local authority workers, including janitors and catering staff, have accepted.
But schools will face disruption again with the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) and NASUWT taking industrial action on December 7 and 8.
And the country’s largest teaching union – the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) – announced additional walkouts for teachers in every local authority.
Two councils will walk out at a time for 16 days’ straight following the strikes on November 24.
The First Minister faced scrutiny from Labour and the Liberal Democrats on Thursday.
“It is, of course, the case that industrial action is in no one’s interest. It is not in the interest of teachers and it is certainly not in the interest of pupils, parents or carers either, who’ve already faced significant disruption over the past few years.”
Dialogue between Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville and teaching unions is “ongoing”, Ms Sturgeon said.
And in response to Labour MSP Michael Marra, she said it was “frankly not the case” that the offer had been made at the last minute, adding the Government was going to “every length possible to reach fair agreements with our public sector trade unions”.
She said the offer “recognises the impact of the cost crisis in lower paid teachers, with an increase of up to 6.85% for them.
“The offer is the same that has already been accepted by other local government workers.
“I have nothing but admiration for our teaching profession. They are rightly paid higher than other workers in other parts of the local government workforce.
“But the offer in terms of a pay increase made to teachers is the same as that already accepted by the janitor in a school or by the dinner lady working in a school.
“It is a fair offer, and if accepted, it would mean that since 2018 teachers have had a 21.8% cumulative pay increase.”
Mr Marra urged that negotiations be escalated ahead of new strike dates.
He said: “Since the announcement of 16 more EIS strike dates which will close our schools, deprive our children of their education and throw family life into chaos, no dates for negotiation have been sought or fixed.
“Next week, the SSTA and the NASUWT unions will strike, closing schools again. No attempt has been made to avert that action by this Government.
“Our children have lost so much in the pandemic years, how can they afford a Government making so little effort to keep their schools open?”
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrats education spokesman Willie Rennie said Ms Sturgeon’s message to teachers was to “just be grateful, you’ve had your lot, you’re paid enough’.
“That’s not that way to treat teachers in this country, playing one set of workers against another is a disgraceful way to treat people who taught our young people through the pandemic.”
Ms Sturgeon said Mr Rennie’s tone on the issue was “shameful”.