LECTURERS at further education colleges across Scotland are to begin an indefinite series of strikes, taking three days of strike action every single week until their demands are met.
Members of the EIS Further Education Lecturers’ Association were already set to go on strike on Thursday next week. The union has now confirmed it plans to go on strike three days a week indefinitely from the last week of April onwards.
The planned strike dates are:
• Thursday 17 March
• Tuesday 22 March and Wednesday 23 March
• Tuesday 12 April and Thursday 14 April
• Tuesday 19 April and Wednesday 20 April and Thursday 21 April
• Tuesday 26 April and Wednesday 27 April and Thursday 28 April
• Tuesday 3 May and Wednesday 4 May and Thursday 5 May
• Tuesday 10 May and Wednesday 11 May and Thursday 12 May
• Tuesday 17 May and Wednesday 18 May and Thursday 19 May
• Tuesday 24 May and Wednesday 25 May and Thursday 26 May
• Tuesday 31 May and Wednesday 1 June and Thursday 2 June
• Tuesday 7 June and Wednesday 8 June and Thursday 9 June
• Tuesday 14 June and Wednesday 15 June and Thursday 16 June
• Tuesday 21 June and Wednesday 22 June and Thursday 23 June
Lecturers at most colleges are angry about a 1% pay offer and are concerned about the differences between pay at different colleges.They highlight the fact that there are pay disparities of up to £10,000 a year. The EIS ran a statutory ballot of its members in colleges across Scotland over a 3-week period. The final results have now been announced, with 87.6% of those voting backing strike action, on a 61% turnout.
Also, in a separate development, individual strike ballots at three Glasgow colleges that have refused to sign up for the national bargaining process, have also returned overwhelming results in favour of strike action.
Lecturers at City of Glasgow College voted 99% in favour of a strike, on a 68% turnout. At Glasgow Clyde, lecturers voted 92% in favour, on a 68% turnout. And, at Glasgow Kelvin, lecturers voted 95% in favour, on a 61% turnout.
While the individual disputes at each college are separate and distinct from the national dispute, the programmes of action will follow the same timetable in each case. Commenting following the ballot results, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: ‘These are overwhelming ballot results, which clearly demonstrate the depth of frustration that lecturers are feeling over the lack of progress towards equal pay.
‘Lecturers were promised a return to national bargaining, and clear steps to deliver equal pay in all colleges across the country. In reality neither of these promises has been delivered and lecturers feel angry and betrayed.
‘These feelings have been reinforced by colleges abandoning the negotiations and imposing a pay uplift, while other colleges have refused to take part in negotiations at all. These emphatic votes for strike action are the result of broken promises that were made to lecturers.’
EIS and Further Education Lecturers’ Association (FELA) President John Kelly added: ‘Scotland’s lecturers have sent a very clear message to college management and to the Scottish Government that they are not prepared to accept broken promises on national bargaining and equal pay.
‘The lack of any meaningful offer on fair pay from college management, coupled with the facts of imposing the pay offer and that many colleges have not even taken part in this supposed “national” bargaining process, demonstrate the chasm that exists between what lecturers were promised and the current position.
‘We are not going to take it any more, with the result that our members will commence industrial action and will continue to strike until the promises that were made to us are delivered by colleges and the Scottish Government.’
Last month the EIS union told the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee that reforms to the Scottish college sector have largely failed to deliver on their promise. While the regionalisation and mergers programmes were intended to ‘enhance learning and teaching in colleges,’ the EIS believes that they have most often been misused as a means of implementing cuts to provision and staffing.
In its written submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee on College reform, the EIS has highlighted that, overall, the educational case for the merging of colleges continues to be weak.
Commenting, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: ‘The regionalisation and mergers programmes were touted as a means of delivering a leaner, more efficient Further Education sector which would reduce duplication and deliver so-called efficiency savings but without having a negative impact on high quality learning and teaching in colleges.
‘Unfortunately, the experience for students and staff has been very different with cuts to staffing, course provision and places, as well as reductions in student support over the past few years.’
Flanagan added: ‘With regard to staffing in particular, our lecturer members in Further Education continue to feel particularly aggrieved that the Scottish Government’s promise of a return to national collective bargaining in the college sector has not yet been delivered.
‘The lack of any real progress towards nationally agreed pay scales, and the outright refusal from some colleges to even take part in the process, has led to great anger across the sector and prompted the current statutory ballot of EIS-FELA members on a programme of strike action in colleges across Scotland.
‘This ballot closes on Friday, and the EIS urges all lecturers who are being balloted to use their vote and to vote Yes for strike action in support of the campaign for fair pay in our colleges.’
• The number of qualified teachers working in Scotland’s nurseries has fallen by 29% over a decade, according to figures highlighted by the EIS. A report commissioned by the teaching union said child numbers fell by only 4% over the same period.
The study found qualified teachers played a key role in promoting literacy and mentoring other nursery staff. The Scottish government said it was ‘committed to ensuring nursery children had access to a teacher’.
The EIS commissioned the Child’s Curriculum Group to assess the impact of having qualified teachers in nurseries and childcare settings. Its report ‘Sustaining the Ambition’ concluded that these teachers made ‘many valuable contributions to young children’s learning’ including literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing.
It also highlighted non-teaching contributions such as identifying children with extra support needs as well as providing leadership and training to other nursery staff. The report collated figures which indicated that 1,212 qualified teachers were working across 2,449 pre-school centres in Scotland, working with 101,463 children (September 2014 figures). That compares with figures from 2005 suggesting there were 1,702 registered teachers at 2,761 centres working with 105,810 children.
EIS education committee convener Susan Quinn said: ‘The clear message is that early exposure to a quality educational experience in the nursery setting brings a whole host of benefits to young children.
‘The findings also support the belief that employing the skills and leadership of qualified teachers remains the best way to ensure a quality educational experience in all nursery settings.’