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Education / Schools closed as teachers strike in dispute over pay

The picket line outside Brae High School on Thursday morning. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

MOST schools and nurseries in Shetland are closed today (Thursday) as teachers stage a strike across Scotland.

The only schools staying open are the Skeld and Cullivoe primaries, while only eight out of Shetland Islands Council’s 22 early learning and childcare settings are expected to be open.

The two local private nursery providers will also be open.

Two picket lines are organised in Shetland this morning – one in Brae and one at the Anderson High School in Lerwick.

School doors are staying shut due to a national strike organised by teaching union EIS over pay.

The latest pay offer for teachers amounted to an uplift of up to 6.85 per cent, but the EIS want to see a 10 per cent rise across the board.

It is the first national schools strike since the 1980s.

Ronnie Martin, EIS rep at the Brae Primary School, said on the picket line that teachers have been systematically underpaid since the start of austerity, are now being receiving at least 20 per cent less than what they should earn.

“Of course we understands that there are financial difficulties, but this predates the pandemic as we have been systematically underpaid for a long time,” he said.

“This ten per cent is only a fraction of what we feel we deserve – we long in the long term for restorative pay that would bring us back in line where we should be.

“We are a long way off from the more than 20 per cent down since the austerity measures started in 2008, so ten per cent may seem a lot in the current climate but it is really what we deserve.”

Local EIS rep Matthew Moss told Shetland News that the latest pay proposal was a “simply a poor/shoddy reheating of the previously rejected five per cent offer”.

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The Lerwick picket line. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

“The revised offer simply redistributes the money from the previous offer slightly differently,” he added.

“For 80 per cent of teachers, the revised offer is still for five per cent, exactly the same as the offer we rejected three months ago.

“This offer is an attempt to divide Scotland’s teachers – it will not succeed in doing so.

Shetland EIS rep Matthew Moss. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

“Any cuts to the education budget or any other public sector budget to fund a settlement would be the responsibility of the Scottish Government, and the Westminster Government to a great extent – there is no blame whatsoever upon Scotland’s teachers or the EIS.

“Members are extremely angry about their treatment by COSLA and the Scottish Government – today’s strike action is the result of broken promises to Scotland’s teachers.”

The Scottish Government said the latest pay offer was “progressive” and recognised the impact of the cost of living crisis on lower-paid teachers.

Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “This is a fair offer which recognises that the cost of living crisis is the priority, with higher increases for staff on lower salaries.

“This is now the fourth offer that has been made. In the same time EIS have not changed their request for a 10 per cent pay increase – even for those on the highest incomes.

“I have been clear that we have limited room for manoeuvre. The financial situation for the Scottish Government is challenging and additional money for teacher pay means reduced public services elsewhere.”

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