TEACHERS are being urged to reject the latest pay offer - bringing the likelihood of school strikes a step closer.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) are balloting members on the proposed three per cent pay rise with a recommendation to reject it.

The EIS is not yet asking its members whether they would support industrial action to fight for a larger pay award. However, the SSTA has included an additional question on members' willingness to take strike action.

Teachers are currently being offered a three per cent pay increase which has been described as "derisory" by unions.

In addition, the Scottish Government is offering an extra £25 million to fund a wider shake-up of pay structures which would mean more money for teachers at the top and bottom end of the scale.

However, teaching unions are campaigning for a ten per cent increase for all staff, arguing pay has been eroded significantly over the past decade.

They also want improvements to salary scales to make teaching more attractive, but argue this should be in addition to a significant increase for all teachers.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said: "An extremely angry salaries committee has today taken the decision to open a consultative ballot of our members on the pay offer from the Scottish Government and council umbrella body Cosla.

"Our negotiators are very clear this reheated offer, which has previously been rejected by all of the teaching unions, is divisive and continues to undervalue teachers.

"The EIS is strongly recommending to our members that they send a very clear message by voting overwhelmingly to reject this offer."

Mr Flanagan said if future negotiations failed to deliver an increase then it was likely an indicative ballot on industrial action would be held.

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the SSTA, said the union rejected the divisive nature of the pay offer and the fact it did not address the 10 per cent claim.

He said: "We will be conducting a consultative survey of members and will be strongly recommending a rejection of the offer. The survey will also assessing the preparedness of members to take strike action."

Mr Searson said the ballot would confirm to John Swinney, the Education Secretary, that union officials were speaking on behalf of members in rejecting the pay offer.

He added: "There appears to be a lack of understanding on behalf of the minister that union officials are the mouthpiece of the members and are unable to speak without the approval of the membership.

"It is hoped the government will return to the negotiation table and work with the teacher unions to reward teachers appropriately after years of little or no pay increases."

Iain Gray, education spokesman for Scottish Labour, said the ballot was a "clear rebuke" to Mr Swinney .

He said: "Once again the Education Secretary, for so long considered a safe pair of hands, had dropped the ball badly. 

"Given a platform to show teachers he does value them, Mr Swinney’s arrogant and inaccurate comments have only succeeded in further enraging the profession."