Scotland’s Major Teaching Strike Shuts Down Schools Amid Pay Dispute


A three-day strike by teaching support staff is underway in Scotland, causing the closure of numerous schools across 24 of the country’s 32 councils. Thousands of students have been ordered to remain at home as members of the Unison union – the largest union in the dispute – set out to voice their grievances regarding pay through protests.

Late-stage dialogues over the previous weekend and a revised proposal from Cosla, the local authority body, failed to deter the union from the strike. Nonetheless, unions Unite and GMB have momentarily held their strike plans in abeyance as they consult their members.

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The implications of this action will differ notably across the areas where Unison takes strike activity, including the closure of all primary and secondary schools in Edinburgh, while in Glasgow, 29 secondary schools continue to operate for students in grades S4, S5, and S6.

At stake in the dispute is a pay hike for non-teaching personnel comprising janitors, canteen employees, classroom aides, cleaners, clericals, and nursery staff. Consequently, in order to reach an amicable resolution, the Scottish government unlocked a £80 million fund to enable a pay raise, promising around £2,000 in additional yearly income for the lowest-paid staff.

Despite these promises, Mark Ferguson, Chair of Unison’s local government, argues that the dispute is not merely about pay, but about years of inadequate funding and job cuts by government. He insisted, moreover, that neither government body had yet to accurately pinpoint exactly how these pay raises were going to be funded— a reality which, if not immediately addressed, could potentially lead to more employment and service cuts.

Nonetheless, Humza Yousaf, First Minister, impelled Unison to halt their strikes and present the improved pay offer to their members for a vote, sharing his perspective that the new deal showcases a significant upgrade – although not a perfect one.

As the largest council union in Scotland, Unison’s decision to continue with the strike action varies significantly from the stance of Unite and GMB, who deemed the pay offer satisfactory for suspending strikes.

As the strikes unfold and the negotiations continue, questions arise as to whether more pressure via strikes may lead to further improvement in the pay offer. With this uncertainty at play, the power of collective union action remains to be seen.

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