We rose to the challenge, but were still undervalued

20th June 1997 at 01:00
As a temporary part-time lecturer for the last five years at Moray College I would like to reply to the statements by the principal of Moray College (TES Scotland, May 30). I am sure that I am not alone in my deep concern about the situation and the damaging changes that are taking place within the college. The assertion in an earlier article by Joe Eyre (May 16) that the staff are "under sustained attack from management" is denied by the principal Dr Robert Chalmers as "a gross misrepresentation of the scenario". Personally I feel extremely exploited and vulnerable within this "scenario".

The continuing threat by management of compulsory redundancy and reduction of part-time hours establishes a climate of fear. The "year-on-year efficiency savings" required by management bring about an inevitable increase in lecturers' workload. Work carried out by members of staff taking early retirement must be done by someone.

The college has an agreed recognition and procedures agreement (RPA) signed by both the college and union representatives. Subsequent to the signing of the RPA it seems that whenever a problem between management and union members arises and union representatives follow the RPA, management appears not to acknowledge the problem and fails to react within the timescale as specified in the RPA. I perceive that they are delaying a resolution of difficulties for as long as possible and that they use those parts of the RPA that suit their own agenda.

The current RPA is due to expire at the end of next month. The union representatives are currently trying to get management to discuss the format and structure of the replacement RPA but so far have been unsuccessful in establishing a date to start the discussions, in spite of promises made by management to the conciliation service, ACAS, during pay negotiations.

ACAS had to be called in to avert threatened strike action because of the intransigence of Moray College management. They had insisted that there was no money to pay an award for 1996-97 and took 13 months to come to the negotiating table. After a day with ACAS they were able to offer 2.5 per cent.

As a part-time lecturer I feel I am under a sustained attack - in spite of Dr Chalmers' denials - on my pay and conditions. Part-timers are being obliged to submit to what is effectively a substantial pay cut while continuing to work the same hours as before. (Is this what the principal means by "realigning"?) In connection with this a collective grievance was lodged by part-timers, but thrown back because the RPA, according to management, made no provision for collective grievances. However, the follow-up of my own and other individual grievances has been postponed - in breach of the RPA. I have now been informed that there will be discussion of the collective grievance with union representatives. A date has yet to be agreed.

When Dr Chalmers talks of "exciting and challenging prospects" he should understand that it is the teaching staff who will realise these for the college. But I sense deep disappointment and frustration among staff that in spite of rising to last year's "challenge" when the Secretary of State for Scotland lifted capping from colleges involved in the University of the Highlands and Islands project and staff were involved in a frenzy of new course development, successfully increasing student numbers by a significant amount, their efforts still appear to be undervalued by management. The frustration is compounded by management's persistent refusal to talk. The unions have been requesting a meeting of the joint consultative committee for months and have been met only with silence.

Attempts by the unions to draw our predicament to the attention of the board of management have met with no success. They appear happy to accept Dr Chalmers' view of the situation, which in my opinion is a gross misrepresentation.

Who are college principals and boards of management accountable to? I hope that the new Government will subject these quangos to close scrutiny very soon. For the staff at Moray College, it can't be soon enough.

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