College Lecturers In Dispute Over 'Disappointing' Pay Deal Progress

13 February 2017, 12:56 | Updated: 13 February 2017, 12:57

Northumberland College

Lecturers have entered into a formal dispute with college bosses, claiming they are ''extremely disappointed'' with a lack of progress in implementing a national pay deal agreed almost a year ago.

The EIS teaching union said college members were ''compelled to enter into formal dispute'' with management.

A row over pay saw lecturers go on strike in 2016, with the union insisting it is ''fully prepared'' to take such action again.

College lecturers went on strike for a day in March, with a further 32 days of action planned if no agreement was reached.

They then accepted a revised offer from Colleges Scotland, with staff promised pay rises as well as work between colleges and the union to develop a more ''harmonised'' workforce.

But the EIS Further Education Lecturers' Association (EIS-FELA) announced it is now in dispute with college management.

Union general secretary Larry Flanagan said: ''The EIS is extremely disappointed that we have been compelled to enter into formal dispute with college management over lack of progress in implementing the March 2016 national pay agreement for FE lecturers.

''This agreement, which was reached shortly prior to the last Scottish Parliament elections, followed a period of industrial action by college lecturers across Scotland.

''The EIS fully expects all the promises made to further education lecturers at that time to be kept, and we remain open to further discussion with management (over) how best to deliver the terms of that agreement.''

EIS-FELA president John Kelly said the union had hoped to take part in ''constructive discussions on the delivery of all elements of the pay agreement''.

But he stated: ''Instead, we got obfuscation from college management who sought to move the goalposts on several key elements that had previously been proposed. EIS-FELA will not accept backtracking from management on any element of this agreed national pay deal.

''We took industrial action before to achieve this pay agreement, and we are fully prepared to take industrial action again, if necessary, to defend the agreement and to ensure it is delivered - as promised, and in full.''

Colleges Scotland chief executive Shona Struthers said that ''talks are continuing with the EIS'' as part of the national bargaining process, with discussions adjourned for a week until Thursday.

She stated: ''We hope that we can continue to build on areas of broad agreement, however it is important to bear in mind that we are dealing with huge variation between existing pay and conditions of service at different colleges around Scotland.

''Bringing these variations into line with each other is a complex process.

''The Colleges Scotland Employers' Association is fully committed to honouring the agreement reached in March 2016, including the top of the salary scale of £40,000 for lecturers.

''Good progress has been made - a national pay scale and migration plan has already been jointly developed with the EIS.

''It is important that national bargaining is successful so that we all deliver the modern and effective workforce that the college sector, learners and the economy needs.

''We are committed to working with the EIS to agree how the full terms of the agreement can be implemented.''

Labour inequalities spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: ''Nobody wants to see industrial action but it is clear the mess the SNP has made of merging colleges, along with continued cuts, has increased the pressure on staff. Repeated warnings from Scottish Labour and other groups were ignored.

''This is yet another major headache for SNP Education Secretary John Swinney, who was supposed to sort out all of the problems in the education brief, but instead is seeing them mount up on his watch, because of cuts he made as Finance Secretary.''