FORMER Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has launched a stinging attack on the unions, accusing them of preferring to ‘stand still, angry in the status quo, than step forward into an imperfect but better future.’

The comments from the ex-MSP came as teaching unions met for last-ditch talks with the Scottish Government ahead of this week’s industrial action. 

Staff are preparing to walk out of Scottish primary schools on Tuesday and secondary schools the day after.

The current offer on the table would see most staff in classrooms receive a 5 per cent pay rise, although the lowest-earning teachers would get a 6.85% increase.

Unions are demanding a 10% increase.

Writing in the Times, Ms Dugdale said the unions should look to conditions.

She said offering enhanced maternity pay for teachers, moving from three to six months’ paid leave, “would represent the equivalent of a 12.4 per cent pay rise in a year — more than the unions demand but a non-consolidated cost and one heavily targeted on equality grounds.” 

However, the ex-party leader claimed that the EIS had seemingly not campaigned on maternity rights since 2012. 

Ms Dugdale said there was an "intransigence and opposition to reform" from trade unions. 

She wrote: "It is of course the purpose and prerogative of the trade union movement, something of which I have been a member the whole of my adult working life, to campaign on pay.

"I happen to support public-sector pay rises and am more than comfortable with paying more in Scottish income tax from my earnings to improve the pay deals of frontline public-sector workers.

"What I struggle with a little is the intransigence and opposition to reform. In many sectors, demands from government or company bosses for 'reform' or 'modernisation' are dressed-up mechanisms for reduced headcount, but far from all of them.

"In fact, there are many examples of modernisation agendas being accompanied by guarantees that headcount will remain the same, albeit people may be asked to do different roles for the same pay."

She said in her time leading policy development in the Labour Party, she felt on occasion that "the trade unions were sometimes the very block to the progressive Scotland they envision." 

The ex-MSP says the unions were "lukewarm" about a proposal to hike income tax to fund investment in education

She also said in her dealings with the union it “often felt like they’d sooner stand still, angry in the status quo, than step forward into an imperfect but better future."

An EIS spokeswoman described the comments as “disappointing” and “poorly-informed.” 

She said Ms Dugdale’s “dedication to investigating” the EIS’s efforts on maternity pay had seemingly “stopped at the first failure to navigate our website.”

“She would have to go no further than the online report of the latest EIS AGM to find our current policy commitments.

"The EIS 2022 June AGM approved five resolutions on advancing maternity, paternity, and parental rights of our members, including campaigning for improvements to pay and leave entitlements.”

They said: “Ms Dugdale’s proposal of a maternity pay increase as an adequate substitute for the current pay campaign, however, is insulting.

"A 10% pay increase is an effort to meet inflation and address the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, which disproportionately affects women, BAME, disabled and already poverty-stricken families. 

“Mothers are more likely to struggle financially at this time, and more likely to be single parents.

"Improvements to maternity pay, though essential, should not be conflated with meeting the urgent need to pay all teachers what they are worth.”