Scotland’s college lecturers have begun industrial action by refusing to enter student marks into recording systems and working to rule as part of a battle for higher wages.
Members of the EIS-Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-Fela) across Scotland’s 26 colleges started their action short of strike on Tuesday after its members backed the move last month.
Andrea Bradley, EIS general secretary, warned: “College leaders and the Scottish Government now only have a short window of opportunity to avoid significant disruption that would mean students not being able to progress due to assessment results not being entered into college systems.
“Despite the months of warnings that this industrial action would be undertaken, college employers have still failed to produce a pay offer that is acceptable amidst a cost-of-living crisis and the Scottish Government has failed to pay any attention to this dispute.”
Gavin Donoghue, director of College Employers Scotland, said it was “deeply disappointing” the union had started the action and it would have a “a serious impact on college students at a crucial time in their courses”.
As part of the industrial action affecting the more than 300,000 college students north of the border, union members will still mark work but not enter it into recording systems.
And the work to rule action will mean, the union said, that college lecturers no longer carry out duties beyond those stated in their contract, including their working hours.
EIS-Fela warned if the action failed to see the colleges come back with an offer they felt was suitable, they could raise the stakes and strike at the start of the academic year in August.
On April 14, the union revealed that some 78% of members who voted in its ballot backed a walkout, while 94% backed action short of strike. There was a 53% turnout.
Since then College Employers Scotland upped their proposal to offer a “two-year pay deal of 3.5% in 2022/23 and 3.5% in 2023/24, providing a 7% cumulative pay rise across both years”.
Mr Donoghue said: “This improved offer comes at considerable cost to colleges – almost £24 million over both years – at a time when they are receiving flat cash funding from the Scottish Government and with other costs increasing rapidly.
“College employers will do everything they can to minimise the effect of industrial action, including action short of strike.
“We will also be seeking to meet the EIS-Fela again as soon as possible to reach an agreement on pay so colleges can continue delivering the world-class learning experience our students rightly expect and deserve.
“Importantly, employers have also sought, and will continue to seek, meetings with the Scottish Government to request additional funding for staff pay deals.”
EIS-Fela has asked for a £5,000 rise for its members.
On Tuesday, Anne Marie Harley, EIS-Fela president, said that “college lecturers deserve a fair pay award in line with other public sector workers”.
“College leaders must now call publicly for increased funding for Scotland’s FE (further education) sector in the way that EIS-Fela have been doing since last year,” she said.
“Passing on cuts is a dereliction of leadership. The Scottish Government must also step up and intervene to ensure that college lecturers receive fair pay and the FE sector receives adequate levels of funding.
“The managed decline of Scotland’s colleges must end.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is for the college unions and the employers to negotiate pay and terms and conditions voluntarily, in the spirit of collaboration and co-operation.
“The Scottish Government is not directly involved in the national collective bargaining process.
“It is important that unions and college employers continue to hold talks to avoid any potential industrial action and subsequent disruption to learners.
“We expect management and unions to make every effort to reach a settlement that is fair and affordable.”