Lecturers at Lews Castle College are picketing outside the college gate today (Tuesday February 5th) on a second day of action during pay talks.

Representatives of the Further Education Lecturers Association (EIS-FELA) said there had been no progress on their dispute with college employers despite eight hours of talks on Thursday.

A spokesman said earlier: “No agreement was reached therefore members will be on strike on Tuesday 5th February. More talks are planned but no date is agreed as yet.”

The dispute centres on a claim for a cost-of-living increase to be agreed, in addition to a harmonisation pay adjustment which is seeing lecturers from lower paid colleges get increases to meet an agreed national scale.

The picket is at the main gate of Lews Castle College from 7.30 to 11amtoday and members were being asked to be there especially at the busiest time for passing traffic, between 8.30 and 9.30am.

The dispute continues despite some progress during talks with employers in a meeting on Thursday January 24th.

Representatives of the Further Education Lecturers Association (EIS-FELA), an autonomous organisation within the Educational Institute of Scotland, came away that meeting with agreement on a single issue, but other pay issues unresolved.

The dispute revolves around a manifesto promise from the Scottish Government that all FE lecturers in Scotland would see their pay scales adjusted to meet those of the highest paying college in Scotland – North East College Scotland – over a period of three years from 2017.

For some colleges, that meant staff would see relatively little pay change, but for other colleges such as Lews Castle the change would be significant.  The agreed changes, described as ‘harmonisation’, have been implemented, but in the meantime the cost-of-living pay rises awarded to other public sector employees have not been awarded.

FELA branch secretary Billy Mackinnon said “We’re all disappointed that we have ended up here. Nobody wants to go on strike, but we feel that we have no choice.”

Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association said it has met with the Educational Institute of Scotland Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) on 10 occasions to try and reach agreement and end strike action.

"This is the third time in four years that the EIS-FELA has gone on strike. In this latest strike, they went out on Wednesday, 16 January, and again today (Tuesday, 5 February).  Further strikes are planned for Wednesday, 6 March, and Thursday, 21 March.

"Finances are extremely tight in the sector and, on top of the annual three per cent annual efficiency savings all public bodies are being asked to meet, the £10 million cost to colleges for the current pay offer also has to come from making cuts.

Commenting on the EIS-FELA strike, John Gribben, Director of Employment Services at Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association, said: “It is disappointing that the EIS-FELA has not suspended strike action whilst negotiations are ongoing.  We have met with the EIS-FELA on 10 occasions to discuss pay and will be meeting them again on Thursday, 7 February to try and end this disruptive strike action.

“The EIS-FELA is aware that colleges are already having to make cuts to finance the additional pay offer which they have rejected.  Their unreasonable pay demands would mean fewer courses, fewer students, and fewer lecturing jobs in the college sector.

“As we have repeatedly said to the EIS-FELA, the pay increases over 2017-20 from harmonisation are directly connected to the current additional pay offer on the table over the same three-year period and cannot be separated – a pay rise is a pay rise irrespective of where it comes from.   College lecturers in Scotland are by far the best paid across the UK and they have rejected a combined pay deal that would increase national average pay by over 12%, or more than £4,000, from 2017-20.

“Any deal must be affordable and sustainable for the sector and the EIS-FELA should recognise how strong the overall package for lecturing staff is.  Not only are lecturers benefitting from significant pay rises, they have also seen substantial improvements in their terms and conditions, including 62 days’ annual holiday, a reduction in weekly contact with students to 23 hours, and excellent pensions provision.  Despite considerable increases in pay and improvements in terms and conditions, this still isn’t enough for the EIS-FELA.  It remains within the gift of the EIS-FELA to suspend strike action and end this unnecessary disruption to students, who are losing out the most.”