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Lecturers stage national day of strike action as dispute over pay continues

College lecturers have taken further industrial action across Scotland in a long-running dispute over pay.

Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland – Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-Fela) staged a national day of strike action on Thursday.

They manned picket lines outside colleges then gathered at a rally outside the Scottish Parliament.

They say lecturers last received a pay uplift in August 2021, and ought to have been given a further rise the year after, but are still waiting for an acceptable offer from college employers 18 months on.

Members argue the only pay offers made so far are below inflation and the Scottish Government’s public sector pay policy.

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EIS general secretary Andrea Bradley also claimed some college principals threatened to dock lecturers’ pay if they took part in industrial action this week.

College Employers Scotland (CES), which represents employers, has offered EIS-Fela a £5,000 consolidated pay rise for all college staff over three academic years.

CES said it is “deeply regrettable” students are again facing disruption to their learning and that the industrial action will not lead to an improved pay offer.

Last month, members of EIS-Fela took two weeks of rolling strike action as part of the dispute. Further targeted action is also set to take place next month.

Ms Bradley said: “It should be a matter of deep shame to both college employers and the Scottish Government that the country’s hard-working and dedicated college lecturers are still waiting for a fair pay offer, a year and half after they should have had their pay increase settled.

“It should be a further source of shame that, rather than seeking to resolve the dispute, some college principals have instead poured fuel on the flames by threatening to withhold pay from lecturers engaged in a work-to-rule and resulting boycott as part of a legitimate programme of industrial action.

“This reprehensible threat, which runs counter to the Scottish Government’s stated opposition to Westminster anti-trade union laws, violates every policy of sound industrial relations and fair work principles and seems designed to make the dispute worse, to the detriment of lecturers, students and college communities.

“By taking national strike action today, and by turning out at Holyrood later this morning, Scotland’s further education lecturers are making clear that they will not be cowed into submission by the bullying tactics of Scotland’s college principals.

“The programme of industrial action, including a rolling schedule of further days of strike action, will continue until EIS-Fela members receive a fair pay offer that properly reflects the invaluable work that they do.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “While the Scottish Government respects the right of trade unions to take industrial action, we remain concerned about the potential impacts this action will have on students.

“That is why ministers are encouraging both sides to come to a resolution and bring this action to a close.

“It is, of course, for the college unions and employers to negotiate pay, terms and conditions, not the Scottish Government.

“The further education minister will continue to engage with both management and unions as they work to reach a settlement that is fair and affordable.”

Gavin Donoghue, director of CES, said: “Colleges have plans in place to try and mitigate the impact of today’s strike, and it is expected that the vast majority of colleges will remain open today.

“However, it is deeply regrettable that students are, once again, facing disruption to their learning due to industrial action taken by the EIS-Fela and Unison.

“Today’s strike and other industrial action, like the resulting boycott, will not lead to an improved pay offer to trade unions. 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.

“Despite unprecedented financial pressures, colleges have put forward a substantial pay offer which, if accepted by trade unions, would keep college lecturers in Scotland as the UK’s best paid. For support staff, the same offer would mean an average pay rise of nearly 16% from September this year.

“The employers’ full and final pay offer has already been overwhelmingly accepted by Unite and GMB members. We urge EIS-Fela and Unison to cancel their industrial action and follow the example of their fellow trade unions by putting the pay offer to their members in a ballot.”