Almost three-quarters of colleges in Scotland have been affected today by the first national strike in the sector in decades.
It was the first of a potential 32 days of strike action the EIS FELA union has announced in a dispute over pay with college management. According to the union, 88 per cent of those voting in the ballot nationwide backed the move to strike action, on a turnout of 61 per cent. The union said 19 out of the 26 colleges in Scotland were affected, with many being forced to cancel classes.
General secretary Larry Flanagan said lecturers were taking this action as a last resort, following the failure of college management to offer a fair deal on pay equality. Management side negotiators had “dragged their feet”, he said, and some colleges had refused to take part in negotiations at all.
The government committed to a return of national bargaining as part of its reform programme for the sector. A deal with support staff unions was agreed earlier this year.
Colleges Scotland had yesterday called on the union to call off the strike action, stressing it would be damaging the country’s 227,000 college students. The umbrella body added it was confident a deal could still be reached, with a meeting scheduled for tomorrow.
Shona Struthers, Colleges Scotland chief executive, said: “We are under no illusions that the reintroduction of national bargaining to the college sector is a major challenge, but one we fully support. Throughout, we have been totally committed to putting the best deal on the table to reward staff for their hard work and commitment. Crucially, the deal has to be deliverable in a financially sustainable way, both now and in the future.
“Over the past few weeks real progress has been made, and we could be on the cusp of finding a viable solution. We can deliver a sustainable pay increase now, to everyone. We will then take decisive steps towards tackling variances in pay and conditions across the sector and modernising in the longer term.”