Scotland's college strikes could be ending

1 June 2019, 07:14

protest, strike, lecturers, college, scotland

Representatives for college lecturers in Scotland have welcomed a pay offer which could end a long-running dispute.

Colleges Scotland Employers' Association and the Educational Institute of Scotland Further Education Lecturers' Association (EIS-FELA) reached an agreement in principle after a 20th resolution meeting on Wednesday.

They will meet again next Wednesday to finalise the deal after the union ballots its members this weekend.

It will see lecturers receive £400 unconsolidated and £1,500 consolidated over a period of three years and five months, with clarification on discretionary time and observation of learning.

Shona Struthers, chief executive of the college body, said: "We welcome this agreement in principle on pay, terms and conditions with the EIS-FELA, which will hopefully bring this protracted dispute to an end.

"We are asking the EIS-FELA to immediately suspend their action short of strike action pending the result of their members' ballot.

"Colleges' improved offer to the EIS-FELA puts £1,900 more into every lecturers' pocket in return for agreement on terms and conditions, and is in addition to the substantial financial gains for most lecturers from the harmonisation deal already agreed.

"In return for almost £2,000 more, colleges are offering industry-standard, flexible working arrangements for the end of automatically guaranteed discretionary time in colleges where it still exists.

"It is perfectly reasonable to expect employees to be at their place of work unless they have spoken with and have agreement from their line managers."

The deal is backdated to April 1, 2017 and runs to August 31, 2020, with the additional £17.5 million cost said to require colleges to make cuts.

Ahead of the ballot this weekend, EIS-FELA has agreed to recommend its members accept the offer.

The union's current advice of ongoing action short of strike will remain in place during the short process.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "Whilst the improved offer falls short of our original ambition, it is a significant improvement on where we were only a few weeks ago.

"The EIS-FELA executive was clear that this is the best offer available through negotiation, without further significant strike action being required.

"It has agreed to recommend acceptance on that basis, although members will have the option of voting to continue with industrial action. Ultimately, it will be for our members to decide."

Ms Struthers added: "Also contained within the agreement on terms and conditions is an understanding that it is mutually beneficial for colleges and lecturers to have observation of learning to increase attainment, which continues the professionalism of the sector.

"Lecturers in Scotland are the best paid in the UK, earning £10,000 more than their English counterparts, and the pay harmonisation rises from 2017 to 2020, combined with the improved pay offer agreed in principle with the EIS-FELA, equate to a national average increase of over £5,000 - or more than 13%.

"Lecturers have already also had significant improvements in terms and conditions over the same 2017-20 pay period, including an enviable 62 days' holiday per year and the introduction of 23 hours per week class contact time."