Lecturers hoping for a 'new year resolution' in pay structure

Neil Munro

The educational Institute of Scotland wants to see FE college managements make a "new year resolution" to agree a proper national pay structure for all lecturers.

It follows the news that Fiona Hyslop, the Education and Lifelong Learning Secretary, intends to establish talks to consider a return to national bargaining for FE colleges.

Ronnie Smith, the EIS general secretary, said: "The Cabinet Secretary should be congratulated for grasping this particular nettle and she will find the EIS fully behind any move to return Scotland's colleges to a coherent system of national determination of pay and conditions of service.

"It has been nearly 15 years since the further education sector had national bargaining and, in the intervening period, we have experienced a very turbulent industrial relations climate, coupled with a very inefficient system of plant bargaining at each college in the country."

The union has long been aggrieved that college lecturers are the only professional teaching staff in Scotland who do not have an agreed national pay system - a "damaging inconsistency", it argues. School teachers and university lecturers have a national pay structure and collective bargaining, while FE pay and conditions are negotiated in each college.

Mr Smith continued: "It is simply inequitable and wrong that further education lecturers should be forced to accept a postcode lottery for their salaries and conditions.

"Where is the logic in treating FE lecturers in Dundee and Aberdeen differently, with different salaries and conditions for doing the same job, while treating teachers and HE lecturers in those two cities exactly the same, with the same salaries and conditions? Why should a lecturer in Inverness be paid around Pounds 3,500 less than a lecturer in Aberdeen for doing the same job?"

Although some college principals would admit privately that they would be glad to see the back of plant bargaining, the official stance of the Association of Scotland's Colleges continues to be that colleges face very different circumstances in different parts of the country and should have the flexibility to respond to them - and that should include the pay and conditions of staff.

But Mr Smith pointed out: "The role of FE colleges in providing vocational education and training will become even more critical in the context of the current recession and rising unemployment. The need to reskill and upskill the workforce will be paramount. It is essential, therefore, to create a positive industrial relations climate in FE so everyone can focus on the challenges ahead."

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Neil Munro

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