Scotland politics

College lecturers back industrial action

College class

College lecturers in Scotland have overwhelmingly backed industrial action over a pay dispute.

The result of an indicative ballot by the EIS Further Education Lecturers Association (EIS-Fela) showed 92% supporting action and 8% against.

Lecturers are to hold a protest later to highlight their concerns about further education.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan called the result of the vote "very clear". Turnout was 55%.

Because it was an indicative ballot, the union would have to organise a further vote before industrial action could begin.

EIS-Fela has argued the college sector in Scotland has been under attack.

Lecturers are calling on the education secretary to inject extra cash into Scotland's colleges in the wake of what they called "draconian cuts".

The Scottish government said it had a strong track record on colleges and had provided significant investment.

Colleges Scotland, the body that represents colleges, said it was disappointed over the action.

'Fair pay'

Mr Flanagan said: "In an environment where millions of pounds of cuts have been imposed, where certain college managers are awarding themselves pay increases of more than 5%, where some principals have manoeuvred massive pay-offs for themselves, and where hundreds of millions of pounds of college funds have been stashed in secretive Arm's Length Foundations, the management side's 1% pay offer is an insult to hard-working lecturing staff and their support staff colleagues."

He added: "Should no acceptable offer be made, the EIS Executive will consider the next steps to be taken in pursuit of the 2015-16 pay claim.

"Given this very strong message from the indicative ballot the most likely action would be a move to a statutory ballot for industrial action in the new year.

"It is also now time for the Scottish government to act to ensure that national bargaining delivers a fair and acceptable pay offer from college management."

Image copyright Google
Image caption Lecturers will protest outside the offices of the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council

The demonstration will take place outside the offices of the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council (SFC) in Edinburgh.

John Kelly, EIS-Fela President, said: "The main focus of our lobby here today is to highlight the appalling attacks which further education provision in colleges has come under over the past few years.

"The SFC has implemented draconian cuts on further education colleges which have been exacerbated further by light touch regulation.

"We are calling on (education secretary) Angela Constance to inject more money into the sector, however at the same time we are also urging the SFC to switch off the green light which has been shown to colleges allowing them to spend on a few, at the expense of further education students and staff."

Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said: "We hope that no students have been disrupted because of today's unofficial demonstration.

"While we recognise that there have been a few legacy issues, they should not detract from the excellent work that colleges do for the benefit of students and the hard work and dedication of staff in colleges."

Track record

A Scottish government spokesman said: "This government has a strong track record on colleges and recognises that they are vital to Scotland's success.

"We have invested significantly in colleges since 2007 and are providing resource funding of £526m to the sector in 2015-16.

"The Scottish Government remains committed to national bargaining in our further education sector.

"However, we recognise that moving towards this approach was always going to be challenging given the level of change required.

"For this reason, we consider this year to be a transitional year where we expect a willingness on both sides to move things forward; not everything can be achieved quickly, or all at once.

"We have been clear that the college severance arrangements described in the Auditor General's report were completely unacceptable."

Mergers and pay rows

Jamie McIvor, BBC Scotland Education correspondent

Mergers in any field can often be difficult - they can lead to job losses and the inevitable challenges of bringing together the culture and practices of different institutions.

These concerns were exacerbated by rows over pay offs for some senior staff. The public spending watchdog raised concerns about the practices followed by some.

At the former Coatbridge College there were claims of collusion though, when questioned by MSPs, the former principal denied any wrongdoing.

Indeed at some colleges, the merger process itself has been difficult.

Read Jamie's analysis here.

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