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Education / Schools closed by strike as union says pay offer ‘too little, too late’

There were plenty of beeps from passing cars in support of the picket line outside the Scalloway Primary School on Tuesday morning. Photo: Shetland News

THE MAJORITY of Shetlands schools are closed to pupils today (Tuesday) as part of a three-day strike across Scotland over pay.

The industrial action is being undertaken by non-teaching school staff who are members of the union Unison.

The union’s Shetland branch secretary Susanne Gens said the latest movement on pay offers was “too little too late”.

She said in last week’s offer only the lowest paid council staff would receive a near inflation pay rise.

“For everyone else the offer resembles a pay cut in real terms, with the majority not seeing any improvement to the previous offer,” Gens told Shetland News.

Our members up and down Shetland are angry of the attempt to be fobbed off again, with low pay. That’s why Unison members in Shetland have decided to take action and join their colleagues across Scotland in unprecedented numbers.”

Unison Scotland head of local government Johanna Baxter said “no-one wishes to cause disruption for pupils and their parents, but school staff have left with no other option”.

Action from Unison members is taking place in 24 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The union says up to 21,000 of its members working in over 1,800 schools are walking out.

Other unions Unite and GMB have suspended their own strike plans while members are consulted, although Shetland was not due to be affected by their action.

There was also a picket line outside the Anderson High School in Lerwick. Photo: Susanne Gens

First minister Humza Yousaf said whilst it is up to local authority body COSLA to lead negotiations, the Scottish Government had offered extra funding for the latest pay offer.

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Speaking on Monday, he described it as a “good deal” and had urged Unison to consider suspending the strike action.

Unison will ballot its members next week on the offer with the recommendation of refusal.

It comes after strikes from teaching staff who are members of the EIS teaching union closed schools in Shetland on a few days in 2022 and earlier this year.

Shetland Islands Council said regarding the latest industrial action that children’s services staff had explored options to keep schools open wherever possible, to reduce the impact on children and young people, and parents and families.

Some settings may review their staffing arrangements after the first day of strike action, so local circumstances may change. Parents and carers will receive any updates from schools directly, through their usual channels.

This time around schools and early learning centres that will be open on 26, 27 and 28 September are:

  • Brae High School for S4, S5 and S6 only
  • Mid Yell primary and ELC departments only
  • Sandwick Junior High School for S4 only
  • Whalsay School
  • Cullivoe Primary School
  • Fair Isle Primary School
  • Foula Primary School
  • Nesting Primary School
  • Skeld Primary School

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