Fresh industrial action announced as college lecturers up pay dispute

College lecturers are to stage three more days of strike action as their row over pay escalates.

Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland – Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) are to walk out again in May.

They have already staged four days of strike action since the start of the year and, on Thursday, voted to increase the dispute and move to other forms of industrial action.

Lecturers are demanding what they say is a fair cost of living increase, in line with public-sector pay policy.

The emergency committee of the EIS, the country’s largest union for teachers and lecturers, met on Friday and has given the green light to the fresh wave of action.

The committee has authorised new strikes to be fixed for May 8, 15 and 16.

It also allowed other action short of a strike to be implemented.

This includes a boycott, involving a refusal to record student results in their employers’ results systems, and a “withdrawal of goodwill”, such as refusing to carry out activities that are not contractually required.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The escalation in industrial action, approved today, has been forced upon us by the continuing intransigence of college management and by the refusal of Scottish Government to intervene in relation to this vital sector of our education system.

“Lecturers do not relish the prospect of this escalation of action, but nonetheless remain steadfast in their determination to secure a fair cost of living pay increase, in line with public sector pay policy.

“The EIS would urge both Colleges Scotland and the Scottish Government to consider the best interests of Scotland’s FE sector and the students that it serves, and to come back with a fair proposal that will be acceptable to our members and allow lecturers to return to work as normal.”

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

It said the current unconditional offer on the table is a flat cash payment of £625 for all lecturers in years 1 and 2, plus public sector pay of 2% or 3% in year 3.

John Gribben, Director of Employment Services at Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association, said: “It is extremely disappointing but not surprising news, as the EIS-FELA is constantly on strike and it is their idea of negotiating.

“The EIS-FELA is out of control and by also committing to withholding students’ assessment results they have crossed a line which is recklessly gambling with students’ futures.

“By announcing three days of strikes during the exam period, the EIS-FELA has compounded its attack on students and is trying to cause maximum disruption to the students, but colleges will do everything in their powers to mitigate the impact.

“This is the behaviour of an unprofessional, reckless body which is displaying contempt for college students.  The EIS-FELA’s conduct is in stark contrast to the EIS, which promised not to take teachers out on strike during exams had that pay dispute resulted in strike action.”

He said that 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% in three years ­– which he said exceeds public sector pay by far.

Further Education Minister Richard Lochhead said: “I have met with both sides this week 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 that this meeting leads to the successful resolution of this dispute.

“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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