Lecturers have passed a no confidence vote on the umbrella body for the college sector in Scotland.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said members at the union’s Further Education Lecturers’ Association (FELA) annual general meeting unanimously voted to pass the vote of no confidence in Colleges Scotland.
A number of one-day strikes have taken place recently, in a long-running dispute, as the union demands a “fair cost of living increase”, in line with public sector pay policy.
The union rejected a 2% increase offer over three years, and accused employers’ association Colleges Scotland of seeking to tear up existing commitments on lecturers’ working conditions.
EIS-FELA president Pam Currie said: “Colleges Scotland are misrepresenting the figures related to this dispute, and it is now time for the Scottish Government to step in and act.
“We have been very clear to management that we are asking only for a fair cost of living pay increase, in line with public sector pay policy.
“We are not being unreasonable or greedy, as the management have often claimed.
“Essentially, this dispute is about college management attempting to wriggle out of existing agreements delivered through national bargaining.
“We are very clear that we are not going to sell anyone’s hard-won terms and conditions to achieve a fair cost of living pay increase.”
The union also launched a Parliamentary Briefing, which has been sent to all MSPs, “setting out the facts in relation to the dispute”.
The briefing states: “Colleges Scotland has presented financial information to the Scottish Parliament about the EIS-FELA pay dispute.
“In making its argument that the EIS-FELA pay claim is unaffordable and unreasonable, it has relied upon its own costings of the pay harmonisation process, of the EIS-FELA pay claims and of the settlement for support staff.
“It has sought to add credibility to its briefing by citing the validation of these costings by the SFC (Scottish Funding Council).
“The EIS believes that these costings are misleading and do not accurately reflect the true costs to the sector as purported.”
John Gribben, director of Employment Services at the Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association, was critical of the move.
He said: “The EIS-FELA’s refusal to make any compromises or meaningfully negotiate is the greatest threat facing the college sector, and they are committed to the disgraceful tactic of withholding assessment results from colleges.
“This is recklessly gambling with students’ futures as they will not be able to finalise apprenticeships, move on to other courses at college or university, or receive certificates required for starting jobs.
“It is not the behaviour of serious educational professionals who care about our students.
“The EIS-FELA has gone out on strike for the third time in four years – without ever formally putting any of our offers to their members – after rejecting an overall national average pay increase of £5,000, or more than 12%, over a three-year period, and lecturers have the most enviable terms and conditions in Scotland’s public sector, including 62 days’ holiday a year, a reduction in class contact time to 23 hours per week, excellent pensions, and a commitment from colleges to pay for those lecturers without formal teaching qualifications to gain TQFEs (Teaching Qualification Further Education) within existing working hours.”
Further Education Minister Richard Lochhead said: “This is a disappointing development given recent constructive dialogue and encouraging signs of progress in recent months with the Employers’ Association tabling a revised offer.
“The current dispute concerns cost of living pay uplift over and above the additional costs of harmonisation of pay, terms and conditions.
“The Scottish Government is funding the additional costs of this harmonisation, which is helping colleges deliver an average 9% pay increase to lecturers over three years.
“The only way to resolve the dispute is for the parties to continue engaging in respectful dialogue and negotiation. Escalation to industrial action would not be in anyone’s interests, least of all students.”