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Union’s no confidence vote in UHI Moray leadership

EIS FELA took the decision earlier this week and principal David Patterson was informed of the move on Wednesday

Lecturers' union EIS FELA has passed a vote of no confidence in the strategic leadership team at UHI Moray. Image: Jason Hedges: DC Thomson.
Lecturers' union EIS FELA has passed a vote of no confidence in the strategic leadership team at UHI Moray. Image: Jason Hedges: DC Thomson.

A lecturers’ union has passed a vote of no confidence in the strategic leadership team at UHI Moray.

EIS FELA took the decision earlier this week.

And principal of the Elgin based college David Patterson was informed of the move on Wednesday.

It comes after unions were told in early January 25 lecturer jobs and 20 support staff will be cut as part of a recovery plan to balance the books.

‘Not one ounce of compassion’

The figures account for a quarter of the college’s employees.

If the plan goes ahead it will leave only thee degree courses and 15 HNCs on the curriculum.

And the Beechtree training restaurant for hospitality students, currently open to the public, will close.

The union’s branch convener Alistair Fowlie said: “Some of the issues have been long standing. But this is now a crisis.

David Patterson sitting on chair inside main lobby of Moray UHI.
Principal of UHI Moray David Patterson. Image: Jason Hedges/ DC Thomson.

“These are members votes, and members feel there’s been no consultation on this proposal.

“And there’s no thought on the impact this will have on the community, staff and students.

“Removing experienced staff and cutting courses means we’re not going to be in any way able to meet the needs of the community.”

However Mr Patterson said UHI Moray is “a successful and well-run college” although it was not immune to Scottish Government cuts to funding.

‘Uncertainty and turmoil’

And he added now was a time for “constructive relationships and feedback” from unions and staff.

A draft voluntary redundancy scheme is included in the recovery plan. But money for that will have to come from the Scottish Funding Council and it has not been secured.

Cartiona McBain, EIS FELA branch secretary said: “There’s not been one ounce of compassion from the senior leadership team towards staff being thrown into uncertainty and turmoil.

“That’s resulting in staff putting their homes up for sale. And we’ve had colleagues in tears over this.

Catriona McBain EIS FELA union branch secretary for UHI Moray.

“Some are actively looking for other employment, and rethinking their livelihoods.

“It’s been like a bomb.

“The proposal very much seems to be a done deal. That’s what it feels like to staff.”

She accused senior management of “sitting in their ivory tower” adding: “It’s not them who are losing their jobs. It’s the teaching and support staff.”

Mr Fowlie and Ms McBain criticised cuts in funding from the Scottish Government to colleges.

‘Successful and well-run college’

And they said it is the only public sector workforce still to get a pay settlement. The dispute has been ongoing for almost 18 months.

They have raised concerns over funding and particular issues relating to UHI Moray with MSP Richard Lochhead.

Unison representative for the further education sector in Scotland Janet Stewart said: “The organisation (UHI Moray) clearly needs assistance.

“We’ve not seen a case where the financial situation is this acute. And it’s our members who are going to end up out the door.

“They are paying for a what looks like a long term systematic problem.

“And there’s this desperate need to reduce jobs. Where has that come from?

“This just hasn’t happened overnight.”

Unison will be speaking to minister for further education and higher education Graeme Dey next week. And the issues at UHI Moray will be discussed.

Mr Patterson said the recovery plan was shared with staff on January 19, with four question and answer sessions being held since then.

Quarter of the workforce to go

An email helpline has also been set up where people can send feedback.

He highlighted a Scottish Funding Council forecast that 20% of all jobs in the further education sector would have to go to balance budgets.

Mr Patterson also gave assurances no jobs would go before the summer recess giving current students continuity of study.

And there are plans to increase the number of modern apprenticeships on offer.

He said: “UHI Moray is a successful and well-run college, but we are not immune to the impact of on-going real-terms cuts in government funding.

“This is an incredibly difficult time for all of us here in UHI Moray.

“And in these unprecedented times we need, more than ever, constructive relationships and feedback from our trades unions and our staff to ensure that our plans and processes are the best they can be for the future of our college, our staff, our students and our wider community.”

Unite and EIS FELA still have a mandate for industrial action in relation to pay and redundancies dating back to September 2022.

And while neither union feels they have enough information to call a strike yet, the option is not off the table.

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