Prisons 'scandal' of contract staff

19th May 2000 at 01:00
MOTHERWELL COLLEGE has been roundly condemned for its "scandalous" treatment of lecturers who work with prisoners.

The college has told staff to reapply for their jobs under new contracts which the main union claims are inferior. Those who are re-engaged will earn two-thirds of their previous salaries with the rest performance-related. The new posts, numbering between 30 and 40 in full-time equivalents, would not be recognised under existing union agreements.

The College Lecturers' Association's annual conference last weekend vowed to defend existing salaries and conditions at the college. Scott Aitken, the branch secretary, said it was "scandalous" that prisoner education, a critical factor in any rehabilitation programme, should have to be delivered by demotivated and demoralised staff.

But the college, which has won contracts to provide education in three prisons in Scotland in addition to the four it already covers, says it is required by the Scottish Prison Service to operate a commercial contract which must be financially independent of other college funding.

A statement says, however, that negotiations with staff are not yet coplete and it hopes that "a great proportion" of its prison staff will be on permanent contracts.

Despite the Government's added investment of pound;214 million for Scottish FE funding over three years, the Motherwell dispute shows some familiar refrains are still around. Coatbridge College was condemned for derecognition of the CLA in a row over the college's insistence that all union negotiators had to be acceptable to the management.

At Inverness College, the union is fighting staff cuts required to help pay off a pound;4.5 million deficit, despite 71 job losses in three separate "restructurings" under the previous management. And staff at Moray College, where the principal is still suspended over allegations of financial mismanagement and nepotism, want a tighter rein on FE managements.

Lack of confidence in college managements, claims of a growing crisis in lecturers' salaries and repeated demands for a return to national collective bargaining were key issues at the conference.

The union is to commission an independent review of salaries and also plans a country-wide demonstration to highlight the need for national negotiations.

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