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Education / College lecturers walk out in pay dispute

Shetland College lecturers during one of the previous strike days. Photo: Peter Johnson/Shetland News

AS THE pay dispute at Scotland’s further education colleges continues, lecturers at Shetland College joined their colleagues at Inverness, Perth and other locations on Tuesday morning and went on strike for the second time this year.

The walkout is the result of a long running dispute in which members of the EIS-FELA union are seeking a “fair cost of living pay increase”.

Employer Colleges Scotland has expressed disappointed that the union is pressing ahead with the strike while talks to resolve the issue are ongoing.

The EIS is asking for an increase in wages that reflects the rise in the cost of living, while Colleges Scotland said that increase had already been granted as part of pay harmonisation for the period from 2017 to 2020.

An amended proposal submitted by the union had been turned down by the employers’ organisation , the EIS said on Tuesday.

“The EIS is asking only for a fair cost of living increase, similar to that already awarded to college support staff and also in-line with public sector pay policy,” the union’s general secretary Larry Flanagan said.

“The 2017 NJNC Agreement delivered harmonised pay for lecturers throughout the college sector, and some national conditions of service. It established equal pay for equal work and was not a cost-of-living pay uplift. Seeking to conflate the issues is disingenuous, at best.”

John Gribben of Colleges Scotland responded by saying: “It is disappointing that the EIS-FELA has not suspended strike action whilst negotiations are ongoing. We have met with the EIS-FELA on ten 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 per cent, or more than £4,000, from 2017-20.”

If the dispute can’t be resolved further strikes are planned for Wednesday, 6 March, and Thursday, 21 March.