A union embroiled in the dispute over fears that further education jobs are being replaced with lower paid posts has criticised the college employers’ group for “rejecting its own proposals”.
Lecturers are going on strike on Thursday as part of the issue after a ballot carried out by the Educational Institute of Scotland Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA).
It comes despite the union issuing a joint statement with Colleges Scotland last week agreeing to suspend the action.
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. The agreement struck last week, through the National Joint Negotiating Committee (NJNC), incorporated proposals that came from Colleges Scotland itself.
“Following the agreement, the EIS agreed to suspend the planned EIS-FELA strike action to allow both sides to formally ratify the NJNC agreement through their own structures.
“EIS-FELA duly ratified the agreement, only to then find that Colleges Scotland was now refusing to do likewise – with the management side effectively rejecting its own proposals.
“Having shown good faith in suspending the strike action and ratifying the agreement, our EIS-FELA members are outraged at the duplicity displayed by Colleges Scotland.
“Lecturers do not want to strike but are taking a stand in defence of lecturing jobs and high standards of teaching across the Scottish further education sector.”
A spokeswoman for the Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association said the action by EIS-FELA is “extremely disappointing after what has already been a very difficult and challenging year”.
She added: “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.
“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.
“We hope that the ongoing discussions lead to a positive outcome.”
Matt Crilly, NUS Scotland president, said: “College students have had a raw deal this year, so it comes as a major blow that college management has walked away from a joint agreement, causing thousands of more students to be disrupted by strike action.
“NUS Scotland shares the concerns raised by EIS-FELA and are deeply disappointed by the moves of some colleges to replace our lecturers with less qualified instructor assessors, which undoubtedly will lead to a cut to the quality of our education.
“When some college students are already at risk of not completing their courses this year, we need college bosses to put students and staff first, return to the joint agreement and avoid even more disruption to our learning.”