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UHI in Stornoway and throughout the islands is being hit by strike action tomorrow (Monday May 20) and later in the week. 

This comes after a meeting with College Employers Scotland (CES) on Thursday 16 May, when the teaching and lecturing unions, EIS-FELA submitted a revised four-year pay claim to receive an improved pay offer for their members.

But, despite lengthy talks, CES could not offer enough progress in the discussions for the EIS-FELA National Representatives to consider the suspension of their upcoming strike action.

Both sides expect to meet again this week, in the hope of resolving the dispute but the EIS-FELA say they will continue with their planned calendar of strike action.

Strike action by members of EIS-FELA has become a regular feature of university life in recent years.

An EIS spokesperson said “The employer’s side was unable to offer any assurances on certain elements of the pay uplift as well other parts of the claim.

"This is extremely disappointing, given that the EIS-FELA were hopeful these discussions would have been able to achieve enough tangible progress to consider suspending the proposed strike action next week, which will now go ahead as planned. 

"College lecturing staff want to be back in colleges, delivering classes and helping their students achieve their qualifications. However, they will continue to fight in order to receive a suitable pay rise.”

College lecturing staff across Scotland are planning strike action on the following dates:

  • Monday 20th May
  • Thursday 23rd May
  • Tuesday 28th May
  • Thursday 30th May
  • Friday 31st May
  • Monday 3rd June
  • Tuesday 4th June
  • Wednesday 5th June
  • Friday 7th June

UHI North, West and Hebrides say they have been advised of strike action tomorrow and Thursday 23 May.

They say: "All our campuses and centres will be open as normal, however, there may be some disruption to teaching. Students and apprentices should attend scheduled classes as normal but be prepared that your class might not run if your lecturer chooses to go on strike. If you attend class and it is not running, please continue with independent study, where possible."

College strikes will not secure an improved staff pay offer and can only damage students’ education, says College Employers Scotland (CES), the national body for colleges as employers.

Back in April CES offered the EIS-FELA and support staff unions (UNISON, Unite and GMB) a £5,000 consolidated pay rise over three academic years. However, the proposal has been rejected by the EIS-FELA, without a formal ballot of its members.

If accepted, it would cost the college sector £72.5 million annually with no additional funding from the Scottish Government.

Employers have tabled the offer despite budget cuts of £32.7 million, or 4.7%, as set out in the Scottish Government’s 2024/25 Budget.

Figures from the Auditor General also show that government funding for colleges has already dropped by 8.5% in real terms since 2021/22.

Gavin Donoghue, CES Director, said last month: “The EIS-FELA should put this offer to its members in a formal ballot, as it would deliver an 11.5% average pay increase for college lecturers from September, and give those at the start of the National Pay Scale a rise of 14.2%.

“The pay offer would also mean that the average college lecturer is almost £1,500 better off than they would be under Public Sector Pay Policy.

“Colleges simply cannot offer to give what they do not have, especially when government funding is set to fall by nearly 5% in 2024/25. The Scottish Government has confirmed on a number of occasions that it will not fund a pay award in the college sector."