Left with no option, following months of frustrating negotiations, EIS-FELA members, across Scotland’s 26 Further Education colleges, began a campaign of action short of strike (ASOS) in pursuit of a fair pay award.
College lecturers should have received their 2022/23 pay rise in September 2022. The EIS-FELA lodged a claim for a £5000 consolidated salary uplift in August of last year. It took several meetings of the NJNC before college employers sent their representatives into negotiations with a paltry 2% offer. One that was swiftly rejected by EIS-FELA negotiators.
Despite the results of a consultative and statutory ballot, once again, making clear the willingness of the EIS-FELA membership to engage in industrial action, college employers have failed to return to the table with an offer that can end the dispute. The second offer made by the employers’ side amounts to 7% over two years – split into 3.5% for each year.
Following widespread engagement with its membership and conscious of the impact of strike action nearly every year for a decade, the EIS-FELA executive has sought to leverage pressure on college leaders through the use of industrial action short of strike. This action is taking two forms – a resulting boycott, where student results will not be shared on college systems, and a work to contract, where lecturers will now no longer engage in tasks that are not contractual. If no resolution on pay can be found, the EIS-FELA Executive reserves the right to call members out on strike action in August 2023.
Negotiations are ongoing at the NJNC, and the EIS-FELA remain completely committed to a negotiated settlement on pay, however, the further education sector as a whole is in a growing crisis.
On the same day that ASOS began, the Scottish Government announced the withdrawal of £26million additional funding that had been allocated to FE colleges in October 2022. The withdrawal of this money has left colleges with a flat cash funding settlement, which amounts to a pay cut as inflation continues to remain stubbornly high. Although the £26 million figure would not have alleviated the financial pressures on the sector, its withdrawal is a retrograde step and one that was condemned publicly by the EIS. The Scottish Government have put colleges to the back of the line in terms of priorities by withdrawing additional funding, all at a time where they are attempting to boost their credentials in addressing poverty.
EIS-FELA branches at the two largest colleges in Scotland, City of Glasgow and Edinburgh colleges, are fighting back against compulsory redundancies, with management in both colleges falling far short of the expected levels of consultation and negotiation with trade union representatives. As the SEJ goes to print, strike action is suspended at Edinburgh college, whilst the local branch seek to negotiate ways to avoid management engaging in unnecessary disruption for the sake of a handful of posts. At City of Glasgow, the college management are attempting to force through up to 100 compulsory redundancies and face the prospect of widespread strike action prior to the end of the academic year. In both cases, the management of these colleges must step back from the brink, return to the negotiating table and discuss meaningfully alternatives to compulsory job losses that will significantly damage further education in Scotland’s two largest cities.
With the funding outlook bleak across the sector, more colleges are beginning to raise the prospect of compulsory redundancies. Across the country, local EIS-FELA branches will seek to resist such moves and further local industrial action remains a possibility in the new academic year.
Now more than ever, the six demands of the EIS-FELA Fighting for the Future of Further Education campaign must be addressed by college leaders and the Scottish Government. Managed decline of the sector will only seek to further damage the educational opportunities for the communities across Scotland that colleges serve. Action is required on governance, funding, pay, workload, quality teaching and learning and fair work.
Colleges open up a route for individuals and communities to gain new skills, qualifications and engage with lifelong learning. Many people have and continue to have their lives changed for the better through access to quality further education. College leaders must stand up for the sector and their staff, simply passing on cuts is a dereliction of leadership. The Scottish Government must step up and value colleges and the committed lecturing workforce within them. Students, lecturers and communities deserve so much better.
The EIS-FELA is fighting for the future of further education and will continue to campaign for pay, alongside its other demands in the coming months. They do so with the full support and solidarity of the EIS behind them.
EIS-FELA members told of compulsory redundancies at City of Glasgow College
Members of City of Glasgow College senior management has informed EIS-FELA representatives that the college workforce will be reduced by up to 100 through the use of compulsory redundancies.
The Principal, Paul Little, who found time to travel to Tartan Week in New York last month, was not present and has never met with union reps about the proposed job cuts.
City of Glasgow’s senior management has begun a (minimum) 45 days’ consultation period on compulsory redundancies. Also confirmed at the meeting is that the College’s Board of Management has not seen the detail of the business case, but yet has agreed a “direction of travel” that includes up to 100 individual members of staff losing their jobs. The majority of these are teaching posts.
Senior management stated that the Board has not been told of, nor have they asked to see, the workforce strategy which sits alongside these short-term proposals. As such, those governing the college appear not to have oversight of how the educational provision for students at City of Glasgow College will be affected by these cuts.
An EIS-FELA rep said, “We were given no prior sight of what college management have stated is a substantial business case behind the proposals to make up to 100 staff redundant. It is ridiculous that trade union representatives are supposed to be in a legal consultation process when we have not even seen the detail of this proposed restructure.
“We do not believe there is a genuine need for these redundancies nor that a genuine consultation process has yet been planned, let alone opened. Even the flimsy details that have been provided, relating to the selection criteria and the proposal of the basic statutory redundancy payment for affected staff, are completely unacceptable.
“We are wholly opposed to all public sector funding cuts and within Further Education, job losses, cuts to courses and cuts to learning provision risk widening inequality and the poverty related attainment gap. Meanwhile, there is money being extracted from this College that is not directly related to teaching and learning within Further Education in Glasgow.
“Instead, public sector funds are being re-routed towards commercial interests and for the benefit of individuals other than students and lecturers. The people of Glasgow expect better from a public sector institution.”
EIS-FELA has confirmed that they are seeking legal advice as industrial action at City of Glasgow College ramps up with specific, targeted, actions including lecturers refusing to cover for staffing cuts that have already been made.