20% of sick days over stress at Edinburgh College

Edinburgh College staff are on strike over changes to their pay and conditions. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Edinburgh College staff are on strike over changes to their pay and conditions. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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ONE in five sick days are due to stress at a college where staff are taking industrial action over their working conditions.

Figures seen by The Scotsman show around 20 per cent of absences at Edinburgh College in November and December were as a result of stress.

Lecturers are currently taking part in a two-day walkout in a dispute over their working conditions.

Details obtained under Freedom of Information legislation show that stress, depression and anxiety account for around a third of all absences.

Staff walked out despite a last-minute deal from management aimed at avoiding industrial action.

The college, which has more than 26,000 students, was only formed last year as part of a series of mergers pushed through by the Scottish Government.

Management want to “harmonise” the contracts of all teaching staff, creating a uniform set of terms and conditions and putting everyone on the same pay scale.

In a deal put forward on Monday night, the college said it would raise the maximum salary offer of £34,700 to around £36,000 over a two-year period and would limit the amount of teaching to 24 hours a week.

But the Educational Institute of Scotland, the country’s largest teaching union, said no agreement had been reached, and the strike would continue.

General secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Edinburgh college lecturers are determined to continue their programme of industrial action until management agree to rethink their offer on terms and conditions.

“Lecturers do not want to strike, but feel that they simply have to take this action in protest at the damaging changes to conditions of service that college management has proposed. There has been very strong support for the strike from lecturers, and numerous messages of support from students and others who appreciate the important work that lecturers in the college carry out and the benefits this brings for the entire community.”

Commenting on the absences through stress, Su Breadner, director for organisational development and communications at Edinburgh College, said: “The health and wellbeing of our staff is of key importance to us.

“Stress is unfortunately something that is faced in the majority of workplaces in today’s society. At 20 per cent, the amount of sick days attributed to stress is actually lower than the national average for non-manual workers. The college has a relatively low absence rate at around three per cent overall but that does not mean that we are complacent. We seek to support our staff wherever possible as a matter of course.”