College lecturers in Scotland vote for strike action in long-running pay battle

Lecturers' unions have claimed college management failed to offer a fair cost of living pay increase. Picture: John Devlin
Lecturers' unions have claimed college management failed to offer a fair cost of living pay increase. Picture: John Devlin
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College lecturers in Scotland have voted overwhelmingly to strike over pay, in a ballot organised by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) Further Education Lecturers’ Association (FELA).

The move follows protracted discussions on a pay offer, and comes as a result of what unions say is the failure of ­college management to offer a fair cost of living pay increase to further education lecturers.

Ballot turnout was 52 per cent, with 90 per cent of voters backing the move to strike action.

EIS-FELA president Pam Currie said the strike move was a “last resort” and urged college management to resume talks.

She said: “Lecturers do not take strike action lightly, and we have done everything that we can over the past two years of talks to attempt to reach a fair negotiated settlement.

“We have repeatedly sought to engage management in meaningful negotiations and formally submitted a revised claim based on public sector pay policy in line with the offer made to support staff.”

Ms Currie added: “Even at this late stage, we hope college management will come 
back to the table to begin meaningful negotiations and deliver a cost of living increase similar to others in the public sector.”

Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, said lecturers were angry at how they had been treated.

“EIS-FELA members are asking only for a fair cost of living increase, and this has been refused by management side negotiators.

“Today’s resounding ballot result is a clear indication of the frustration and anger that our members are feeling.

“College management has dragged this process out for two years, using the delivery of equal pay across the sector as a barrier to negotiation and using conflated figures in publicity to obfuscate the pay claim.”

Strike dates will be announced.

John Gribben, director of employment services at Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association, said it was “extremely disappointing” colleges were facing disruptive industrial action for the third time in four years.

“At the heart of this dispute, is that EIS-FELA will not accept pay increases from National Bargaining are increases in pay. They also want more pay for cost of ­living.

“The employers’ view is that a pay rise is a pay rise, irrespective of where it comes from, and the EIS-FELA has rejected a combined pay offer which would increase lecturers’ pay on average by more than 12 per cent over three years.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “The current dispute is about a cost of living pay uplift over and above the additional costs of the harmonisation of pay, terms and conditions. The Scottish Government has invested heavily in Scotland’s colleges and is funding in full the additional costs of this harmonisation, which is helping colleges deliver an average 9 per cent pay increase to lecturers over three years.

“I continue to urge both sides to resolve this dispute in a spirit of collaboration and co-operation as its continuation is in no-one’s interests, least of all our students.”