The Educational Institute of Scotland has taken the unusual step of suspending the branch convener and secretary at Coatbridge College from holding any official position in the union for four months.
The decision was taken by the EIS's national executive council and has revived all the familiar resentment by the union's further education wing at the erosion of its "constitutional autonomy" by the union's leadership. The executive of the EIS College Lecturers' Association opposes the suspensions.
The union's Coatbridge members say the action against James Higney, the convener, and Tom Wilson, the secretary, means they will be effectively debarred from holding office for more than a year because the union's annual national and branch elections take place before May 31, the official date for the lifting of the ban. Mr Higney is also prevented meantime from taking his seat on the CLA executive.
Mr Higney claims only one voice was raised in favour of the leadership's decision when it was discussed by the 80-strong branch earlier this month. Malcolm Maciver, the EIS past president who moved the motion for suspension at the executive council, and Marian Healy, the union's further and higher education officer, attended that meeting and defended the leadership's traditional view that the executive council has a role in FE matters because it represents the entire membership.
The suspension of Mr Higney and Mr Wilson stems from a prolonged pay battle, involving strike action, between the EIS and the Coatbridge management. A group of eight senior staff, who are EIS members, complained that the branch failed to represent their interests adequately and they reached a separate agreement. The wider dispute has also since been settled.
Mr Higney accuses the national leadership of "giving credence to petty complaints from a group of senior staff that any serious trade union would have laughed out of court".
Meanwhile Ms Healy has told the Coatbridge management that it should deal directly with her in all matters affecting the terms and conditions of EIS members at the college.