College lecturers to escalate industrial action in pay row

College lecturers have voted to escalate industrial action in a dispute over pay.

Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland – Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) are demanding what they say is a fair cost of living increase, in line with public-sector pay policy.

Lecturers have already staged four days of strike action and have now backed a move to other forms of industrial action.

This will include a boycott of inputting assessment results into college management systems.

Glasgow teachers march
EIS general-secretary Larry Flanagan (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Employers’ association Colleges Scotland branded the move a “disgraceful attack on students”  and said pay harmonisation rises combined with the current pay offer equates to a national average increase of more than £5,000.

EIS-FELA said it has rejected what it says is a 2% increase over three years and accused Colleges Scotland of seeking to tear up existing commitments on lecturers’ working conditions.

Larry Flanagan, EIS general-secretary, said: “Today’s ballot result confirms that Scotland’s College lecturers remain fully committed to the EIS-FELA campaign for a fair cost of living pay increase.

“The turnout in this ballot is actually higher than the turnout in our previous ballot for strike action, providing clear evidence that the mood amongst college lecturers is hardening.

“This ballot result also proves that the recent claim from Colleges Scotland that support for the campaign was waning Is simply misleading propaganda from an organisation which seems to be more interested in attempting to union-bust than reach a settlement.”

He added: “EIS-FELA have attempted to negotiate in good faith throughout this process and continue to ask only for a fair pay settlement in line with public sector pay policy.”

The union said 90% of members voted yes to industrial action, with turnout at 55%.

Earlier this month, the Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association said it had tabled eight offers trying to reach agreement in the 2017-20 pay dispute.

The eighth offer on the table is an £800 unconsolidated payment for years one and two, with public-sector pay policy in year three, applied at 3% for salaries up to £36,500 and 2% for salaries above £36,500, it said.

John Gribben, director of employment services at Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the EIS-FELA is committed to recklessly gambling with the futures of college students.

“It is not the behaviour anyone would expect from a professional body.

“By withholding assessment results, the EIS-FELA will 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.

“Lecturers in Scotland are by far the best paid in the UK and the pay harmonisation rises from 2017 to 2020, combined with the current pay offer on the table from colleges, equate to a national average increase of over £5,000 – or more than 12% –  but the EIS-FELA has rejected this and refuses to make any concessions or compromises at all.”

He said it will continue to meet the union to resolve the dispute and called on the EIS-FELA to engage in a meaningful two-way process.

Richard Lochhead, Minister for Further and Higher Education said: “I have met with both sides this week and asked that they redouble efforts to resolve this long-running dispute.

“The negotiations scheduled for tomorrow between both parties offers the opportunity to settle this dispute once and for all.

“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.”

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