College teaching staff have put together their wish list for the national bargaining process on pay and conditions, including demands such as five years without redundancies and the right to appeal directly to government ministers.
EIS-FELA, the union that represents teaching staff in colleges, is also demanding that conditions of service and salaries are agreed in a way that is not to the detriment of any staff. The aim is that "all lecturers at the top of the scale receive the same pay rate, whichever college they happen to teach in", according to a motion passed at the union's annual conference.
"This is really doable, and it is doable quite quickly," Frances Curran of Glasgow Kelvin College told her colleagues. "We have an opportunity to put this through."
Lecturers agreed unanimously that the right to appeal directly to the relevant education minister should be included in grievance and disciplinary procedures. Teaching time should be limited to 21 hours a week, according to the union, and national negotiators should refuse to enter into discussion on the use of job evaluation schemes, where roles are appraised by employers to determine salaries.
These schemes were "divisive and demoralising", Maureen Watson of Edinburgh College told the annual conference. "It is an extremely dangerous route we could be going down if we end up with job evaluations," she said.
A motion to seek a no-redundancy agreement for academic staff for at least five years was passed, after being debated at length. Some lecturers thought the motion was "misguided", but others argued that a five-year guarantee would help to provide the stability needed in the college sector.
"We should be prepared to fight any loss of any job without any proper educational rationale," said Charlie Montgomery of Glasgow Kelvin College. The voluntary redundancy schemes in place across Scotland were actually forcing people out of the door, union members claimed.
A return to national bargaining was recommended in Russel Griggs' review of college governance, published in 2012, and included in the government's Post-16 Education Bill. In January, TESS reported that the National Bargaining Development Group, established in May 2013 and formed of employers and unions, had reached an agreement on a possible structure for talks on pay and conditions, after decades of huge disparities among colleges.
As uncovered by TESS, staff can earn twice as much in some colleges as in others for carrying out similar jobs. Pay for heads of faculty ranges from pound;35,680 to pound;70,000 a year.
No date has yet been set for national talks on pay and conditions, but all sides, including the government, are committed to national bargaining going ahead.
Ian McKay, chair of Edinburgh College and of the National Bargaining Development Group, told TESS that he was "glad to see a clear and unambiguous resolution in support of the national bargaining process and recommending support in the coming ballot". He said: "Achieving agreement on a new national bargaining structure was as much an act of faith for all of us as it was an important structural change for the [further education] sector in Scotland."
Mr McKay added that although some of the conference demands might seem "rose-tinted", change could not be achieved "unless you have the courage to take the first step and put your demands on the table".
"Posture and bluster is easy," he said. "I have great respect for those who are prepared to move from posture to proposal and put our new bargaining structure to good use."