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Education / Strike action to affect college

UHI Shetland's Lerwick campus.

ALL DAY and evening classes at Shetland College today (Thursday) are likely to be affected due to strike action from lecturers’ union EIS-FELA.

The national strike action is taking place across Scotland due to a dispute over the replacement of lecturers with “poorer-paid, lower qualified staff”.

Shetland College said: “Unless advised otherwise by your lecturer all scheduled remote or in person classes will be cancelled on Thursday 25th of March 2021.

“Click and collect library services will still be available, support services continue to work remotely and will be accessible. If you have any concerns, please speak to your course leader or campus contact.”

EIS-FELA said an agreement had been reached on the dispute, but employers’ group Colleges Scotland failed to ratify this.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “I have been involved in many negotiations over my years as a trade unionist, but rarely have I seen anything more bizarre than an employer failing to ratify an agreement largely based on its own proposals.

“This is exactly what the employers’ body Colleges Scotland has done this week.”

Local branch secretary Andrew Anderson said further days are planned for late April and May.

“This dispute is about ensuring that students continue to be taught by professionally qualified lecturers registered with the GTCS [General Teaching Council for Scotland] – this will ensure the quality of tertiary education students into the future,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association, however, said the EIS-FELA is breaching “national agreed protocols by taking unnecessary industrial action whilst meaningful discussions are still ongoing”.

“The strike action is taking place because the EIS-FELA has claimed colleges are trying to replace lecturer posts with less qualified and less well paid staff. This simply isn’t true,” they added.

“In our discussions, the EIS-FELA has agreed that there is no national plan to replace lecturers with other roles like tutors, assessors or instructors. We also both agree that all roles in colleges, whether they be lecturing or support staff, are valuable and that each role is distinct.

“There is one detail left on the table for discussion, and the employers want to make sure that the final agreement recognises the complex and professional nature of the job that lecturers do.”