Staff at SRUC (Scotland’s Rural University College) have taken their third day of strike action over pay.
It is the first time in the institution’s history that lecturers have taken such action.
But why is it happening?
SRUC strike: The issues
The EIS (Education Institute of Scotland) said lecturers’ pay had fallen significantly behind their counterparts in further and higher education.
The teaching union said some staff at SRUC are being paid £7,000 less than others in the sector doing the same job.
Staff had been left with “no alternative”, it said.
SRUC said they were disappointed by the actions of the EIS leadership, and that their “doors remain open”.
It said it was conducting a review of pay and grading with trade unions, including EIS, which is expected to take up to two years.
The college said they had made a “significant offer” on a pay rise for all employees for 2021/22.
EIS called it a “poor cost of living offer”.
A statutory ballot for industrial action returned a result of 93.4% in favour of action short of a strike and 85.7% in favour of strike action. The ballot closed in June.
SRUC strike: What does it involve?
The industrial action short of a strike includes not undertaking any goodwill activities beyond existing duties, such as overtime or lunchtime activities.
In addition, staff are not sharing any assessment or exam results with the SRUC.
The latest day of strike action took place yesterday at SRUC campuses across Scotland, including in Aberdeen.
Affected EIS members employed by SRUC will be asked to undertake a programme of intermittent strike action on eight further days between now and Christmas.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “It is time for management to stop procrastinating and pay their lecturers fairly for the work they do.”
And Deborah Shepherd, Higher Education Officer at EIS, said that staff had been let down since the 2012 merger of the Scottish Agricultural College with three agricultural colleges in Dumfries, West Lothian and Fife, which created SRUC.
She said: “After the merger in 2012, the expectation was that they would harmonize pay and conditions. That never happened.
“The increased offer this year was well below inflation, it was unacceptable.
“People are doing the same job on different pay, hours and holidays, depending on when they joined.
“So two academics sitting next to each other, doing the same job, can be on different pay.
“We’re asking for a pay and grading review to bring everyone in SRUC onto the same pay structure, and for this pay structure to match the rest of the sector.”
SRUC strike: The money
She added: “Pay at SRUC is around £7,000 below the rest of higher education and £5,000 to £6,000 below further education, in terms of equivalent roles. And it’s starting to fall below schoolteachers.
“It’s really hard for academics to impact their students in this way. It’s not easy for them.
“SRUC staff have never been on strike before – there’s no history of this.
“But they’ve got to the point where they don’t see an alternative.
“Staff have been waiting 10 years for something to happen.
“I know of someone who earns £5,000 less than her husband, who does a less complicated job at the same institution.
“There’s a basic unfairness that needs to be addressed.
“I’m hopeful it can be resolved, but we’ve received nothing we can put to our members to resolve the dispute.”
SRUC ‘disappointed’ by action
An SRUC spokesman said: “We are disappointed by the actions of the EIS leadership.
“We have made strong progress in these areas and EIS have been involved and consulted every step of the way.
“SRUC encourages the EIS to re-engage with our agreed internal dispute mechanism, including the ongoing offer of external mediation to resolve any specific concerns they may have.
“We are fully committed to a review of pay and grading, which has already started.
“We have made a significant offer to our trade union partners on a pay increase for all employees for 2021/22.”