Lecturers at Lews Castle College UHI have today (Tuesday March 5th) delivered a vote of no confidence in the Employers Association (Colleges Scotland) and are set to take further strike action tomorrow (Wednesday) along with EIS FELA colleagues all over Scotland.

Talks took place yesterday to try to avert this latest strike.  EIS FELA representatives attended the meeting at short notice having received signals that an improved offer would be made.  It was made clear at the meeting that if such an offer was made we would be willing to suspend tomorrow's action. 

However, Colleges Scotland representing the management side of colleges all over Scotland refused to improve the offer and in fact introduced a shopping list of demands around terms and conditions. 

Commenting on the no-confidence vote, Branch representatives said: "It is clear to members that the Employers Association is seeking to dismantle agreements already reached in negotiations on terms and conditions of employment and is determined to ignore the Scottish government’s public sector pay policy. 
"Therefore, due to the Employers Association’s conduct in negotiations in the current dispute, members of the Lews Castle College branch of EIS FELA have unanimously voted that they have no confidence in the Employers Association.

"The branch has urged the National Executive Committee of EIS FELA to take all steps necessary to persuade Scottish Government ministers to intervene in this dispute to ensure meaningful negotiations take place urgently."

EIS/FELA members will be on picket lines tomorrow morning. A ballot on further escalation of action to include action short of strike action, including the withdrawal of goodwill will open tomorrow.

Again lecturers are asking representatives such as MSPs to intervene in this dispute by calling for Colleges Scotland to negotiate in good faith.

In response, John Gribben, Director of Employment Services at Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association, said: “Colleges have now made six improved pay offers to try and resolve the pay dispute and end the unnecessary EIS-FELA strikes, but, yet again, they have not accepted our latest offer, nor will they seek the views of their membership. 

"While the EIS-FELA’s intransigence is disappointing, it is not surprising, as they don’t engage in meaningful negotiation and are not prepared to make any concessions in return for more money for already very well-paid lecturers.

“College lecturers have seen substantial pay rises from the harmonisation deal agreed in May 2017 and significant improvements to their terms and conditions, including 62 days’ holiday a year, a reduction in class contact time to 23 hours per week, excellent pensions, and a commitment from colleges to pay for those lecturers without formal teaching qualifications to gain TQFEs within existing working hours.

“The pay harmonisation rises from 2017 to 2020, combined with the additional pay offer on the table from colleges, equates to a national average increase of over £5,000 but the EIS-FELA has rejected this as it is still not enough for them.  This is the third time in four years that the EIS-FELA has gone out on strike and is regrettably now their default position.  Lecturers in Scotland are by far the best paid across the UK.

“The EIS-FELA is demanding the same deal as colleges agreed with the support staff trade unions in October 2018, but they are cherry-picking the best parts of the deal and ignoring aspects they don’t like, such as Job Evaluation.  Colleges recently offered to extend the pay deal until September 2020 – the same as the support staff deal – which increased the financial envelope of the offer to £12.6 million, which more than meets in the middle the difference between the EIS-FELA pay demand of £14 million and colleges’ previous offer costing £10.1 million.

“The EIS-FELA is balloting their members to escalate short of strike action and has vowed to withhold assessment results from colleges, which would prevent students from graduating and progressing to other college or university courses.  This is a gamble by the EIS-FELA designed to get the Scottish Government to intervene as they calculate that will get them more money, but they are recklessly gambling with students’ futures.

“The Scottish Government has made it clear that there is no more money for lecturers’ pay and colleges have to find this additional £12.6 million pay deal on offer by making cuts.  If there were any more money available, our priorities would be for additional investment in enhancing students’ experiences and on further improving college campuses, as £65.8 million is already being spent over three years on lecturers’ pay and conditions.”

(This report has been updated with comments from the employers side since first being posted.)