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Unions call on government to intervene in pay dispute

College lecturers who voted to withhold exam results are part of the dispute

The Scottish Trades Unions Congress has called on the Scottish government to intervene in the long-running pay dispute

The Scottish Trades Union Congress has called on the Scottish government to intervene in a long-running college pay dispute.

The EIS teaching union brought an emergency motion to the annual congress in Dundee, calling on Scottish ministers to intervene in dispute which was backed by delegates.

Lecturer members of the EIS Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) have already taken four days of strike action in their bid for a pay increase in line with rises in the cost of living. College management, and their representative body Colleges Scotland, are offering FE lecturers a 2 per cent consolidated pay settlement over a three-year period.           

Read more: Union threatens to withhold students' results

More news: Striking lecturers' pay demands ‘unreasonable’

Background: Scottish lecturers reject pay offer

EIS-FELA members will strike again next month and have also voted to escalate industrial action by boycotting the inputting assessment results into college management systems.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Lecturers and students want this dispute resolved, yet college management and Colleges Scotland continue to show few signs of a willingness to settle. The EIS is now calling on the Scottish government to intervene to help resolve the dispute. This is unfinished business from the return to national collective bargaining in the college sector which the Scottish government was happy to claim credit for – it cannot simply stand by and watch this dispute deepen even further.”

Scottish further education minister Richard Lochhead said: “I have met with both sides and asked that they redouble efforts to resolve this long-running dispute. It is encouraging that both sides plan to meet again and I hope this meeting leads to the successful resolution of this.

“Any escalation of industrial action that is designed to specifically target students must be avoided as this could cause potential harm to their academic futures by withholding results or assessments.”

'Lecturers are already the best paid in the UK'

John Gribben, director of employment services at Colleges Scotland, said: “Lecturers in Scotland are by far the best paid across the UK and are already benefitting from substantial pay increases from harmonisation. The EIS-FELA has gone out on strike for the third time in four years after rejecting a national average overall pay increase of £5,000 in three years, which is more than 12 per cent. 

"Lecturers are also receiving substantial improvements in terms and conditions over the 2017-20 pay period, including 62 days’ holiday and a reduction in class contact to 23 hours per week, and the EIS-FELA must realise that the current offer from colleges – costing over £10 million – is coming from cuts to college budgets. 

“Not only is the EIS-FELA damaging the college sector with their constant striking, they are also recklessly gambling with the futures of college students. By withholding assessment results and striking on exam days, the EIS-FELA is deliberately trying to wreak havoc with students’ life opportunities, as without external verification by awarding bodies, they would be unable to achieve their qualifications, meaning they would be unable to move on to other courses at college or university, finalise their apprenticeships or move into jobs conditional on passing courses. This is an unprecedented and disgraceful attack on students at a critical time for them and their futures.

“The EIS-FELA has gone out on strike four days this year so far without ever formally putting any of our eight offers to their members and their refusal to make any compromises or meaningfully negotiate is preventing an agreement being made. By contrast, the colleges have successfully negotiated a two-and-a-half-year agreement with the support staff trade unions, UNISON, Unite and GMB which involved compromise on both sides.

“We will continue to meet with the EIS-FELA to resolve this dispute for the sake of the students, who stand to lose the most by the EIS-FELA’s reckless behaviour. The number of lecturers out on strike has waned by over a fifth throughout this dispute and we urge the EIS-FELA to engage in a meaningful two-way process and compromise rather than continue to demand more pay without offering anything in return.”

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