The body representing Scotland’s college sector last night claimed that lecturers’ “unreasonable” pay demands would lead to cuts to courses and student numbers.
On the eve of today’s strike action by college staff, the Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association expressed its disappointment that industrial action is going ahead.
Many lecturers are angered that their basic salaries have remained unchanged for three years while others have had a rise to equalise rates of pay at different colleges.
Colleges are offering a 2.5% cost-of-living rise, which would the first of its kind for three years. But the EIS Further Education Lecturers’ Association is calling for a “fair” cost-of-living pay rise.
A second day of industrial action will take place today following a strike last week, with North East Scotland College (NesCol) in Aberdeen, Inverness, Lewis Castle, Shetland, Moray and North Highland Colleges likely to be affected.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
John Gribben, director of employment services at Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association, said: “It is disappointing that the EIS-FELA has not suspended strike action whilst negotiations are on-going. We have met with the EIS-FELA on 10 occasions to discuss pay and will be meeting them again on Thursday, February 7 to try and end this disruptive strike action.
“The EIS-FELA is aware that colleges are already having to make cuts to finance the additional pay offer which they have rejected. Their unreasonable pay demands would mean fewer courses, fewer students, and fewer lecturing jobs in the college sector.
“College lecturers in Scotland are by far the best paid across the UK and they have rejected a combined pay deal that would increase national average pay by over 12%, or more than £4,000, from 2017-20.”
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said, “In hope of reaching a negotiated agreement, the EIS recently submitted an amended proposal which we believed would be likely to break the impasse. At the time of submitting this proposal, we also offered to suspend today’s strike action. Sadly, this offer was not taken up by Colleges Scotland.
“The EIS is asking only for a fair cost of living increase, similar to that already awarded to college support staff and also in-line with public sector pay policy.
Alan Simpson, president of Highland and Islands Student Association said: “The Scottish Government must step in to fix this now. If Colleges were properly funded in the first place then then EIS and the Colleges wouldn’t have to scrap for crumbs.”
A spokeswoman for NesCol said contingency plans had been put in place to minimise disruption and campuses would be open to students.
She added: “It may be that certain classes will not run as normal. If this happens, affected students will be informed where this is the case and provided with information, as soon as practicably possible, about what they should do.”
Further Education Minister Richard Lochhead said it was “profoundly disappointing” the strike was going ahead, adding: “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% pay increase to lecturers over three years.”