Sturgeon appeals for ‘spirit of compromise’ to help resolve teachers’ strike

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Nicola Sturgeon has said her Government will do “everything in our power” to prevent teachers from striking during this year’s exams.

The First Minister said she hoped a deal could be reached to bring an end to the pay dispute which has seen schools closed by industrial action – but stressed achieving this would require “compromise” from all parties involved in pay talks.

She spoke amid an ongoing dispute over pay, which saw teachers first walk out in November last year.

And as the the EIS – Scotland’s largest teaching union – brought the latest phase of industrial action to a close, its general secretary Andrea Bradley insisted the only way to “absolutely” avoid any disruption to exams was for the Scottish Government to stump up additional cash.

Andrea Bradley said the way to avoid further strikes was to ‘bring resource to the table’ (Andrew Milligan/PA)

She insisted: “That’s the way that we avoid any further disruption to education, and the risk of the exam diet being at all affected by the action that our members are being forced to take.”

The EIS general secretary, speaking from a picket line in Greenock, Inverclyde, said: “This pay claim will have been on the desks of the Scottish Government and Cosla for a year tomorrow.

“It was on their desks months before last year’s exam diet began, they’ve had 12 months to bring forward an acceptable resolution to this dispute and they haven’t yet done so.”

Ms Bradley spoke out as teachers in the Inverclyde and Shetland areas took part in strike action – with the final day of a 16-day programme of rolling regional strikes.

Teachers’ unions now plan two further national strike days, on February 28 and March 1, with further regional action set to take place after that.

The union’s strike action runs until until the middle of May, Ms Bradley added, vowing that the EIS “will be looking to renew that mandate should we need to”.

Ms Sturgeon stressed the Scottish Government’s “very strong desire” to reach a deal to end the strikes, with the First Minister adding that the prospect of disruption to exams “would concern me”.

“We will do everything in our power to avoid any such need for contingency plans of that nature.”

She added: “I hope we will see the spirit of compromise that is necessary to reach a resolution to this dispute.”

Speaking at a press conference in Edinburgh, the First Minister said: “Nobody in Government, nobody in local authorities and, I am in no doubt, no teacher, will want to see further disruption to the education of young people.”

But she insisted any deal must be both fair and affordable.

Teachers have rejected a deal which would see most classroom staff receive a 5% pay increase, although the lowest earners would get a 6.85% pay hike.

Instead, the EIS is demanding a 10% increase, but Ms Sturgeon pointed out other local government workers had last year accepted a rise in line with the one being offered to teaching staff.

Pay deals have to be “fair to other public workforces, including the broader, local government, public sector workforce that has already accepted a pay increase that is the same as that offered to teachers”, she said.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We are genuine and sincere about seeking agreement, but it has to be agreement based on a settlement that is affordable and fair.

“That is what we are still seeking to achieve with the teaching unions, and I hope very much we are able to get there in the period ahead.”

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