First Minister given F grade by college lecturers in his constituency

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College lecturers in First Minister Humza Yousaf’s constituency are on strike today for the second time this week resulting in hundreds of classes being cancelled at Glasgow Clyde College.

It follows Monday’s walkout in which local politicians showed their support for the educators who formed an early-morning picket line outside the Cardonald campus.

The disruption is part of a programme of rolling strike action from tutors across Scotland which could last for up to seven weeks. This is on top of action-short-of-strike which could see results being withheld from qualification authorities such as the SQA, meaning students may not get their certificates this summer.  

SNP MP for Glasgow South West, Chris Stephens and Glasgow Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy offered their support to staff who have been campaigning for a pay rise since September 2022.

Mr. Stephens, spoke at the rally and told workers: “I’ve been clear, and always been clear that it wasn’t for FE, I wouldn’t be a member of parliament.”

“I’m going to write to Graeme Dey today, just as I did for the City of Glasgow College, to persuade Graeme to resolve this dispute.

“I am with you, full support and solidarity, from me and many of my colleagues…if this dispute continues I will be back on the picket line arguing your cause, so that you get that just pay rise that you all richly deserve.”

SNP’s Education Minister Graeme Dey has made little reference to the long-running dispute. During the last round of strikes at the end of February, he said that it was up to the employers and the colleges to come to an agreement, and that “this Government is not in a position to put further funds into that process.”

College Employers Scotland (CES) is the organisation which is representing college bosses during the pay negotiations with the union EIS/FELA. CES Director Gavin Donoghue told the Clyde Insider that “the strikes will not, and literally cannot result in an improved pay offer from employers.”

“We had a joint meeting with the EIS-FELA where we made it clear that there was no more money forthcoming from the Scottish Government.

“Colleges have already maxed out the budgets in order to put the £5000 on the table. That’s against the background of real terms cuts and now cash cuts to college budgets in the last Scottish Government budget so that there’s no more money and I think it would benefit EIS-FELA members if you know the trade union was able to face the reality of the situation and to the offer that’s been on the table since November to the members in a formal ballot.”

EIS officials have been concerned that accepting the pay offer would result in compulsory redundancies for other staff members. Responding to EIS-Fela members’ concerns that accepting pay rises will mean accepting redundancies, Mr. Donoghue said:

“That’s absolutely not the case. The offer that we’ve made published in order to stop any misinformation about what’s in the pay offer, very clearly says that compulsory redundancies will not be directly related to the pay offer says in black and white, and it’s been agreed one thing with the EIS-FELA and they’ve told us in recent meetings and they have no problems with that wording.”

A pay offer dated 30 November 2023 states that “any compulsory redundancies will not be related directly to this pay award.”

However, Mr. Donoghue did not rule out the possibility that future funding issues could result in lecturers and support staff losing their jobs moving forward:

“The legacy of the college sector budgets decreasing and has been decreasing in real terms and has now a cash cut from the Scottish Government. We’ve been trying to be upfront and honest with the EIS-FELA that there are cuts to the sector. And because in the sector at least 70% of costs are staff there may have to be workforce reductions. But compulsory redundancies would always only ever be a last resort after they’ve looked at it taking away all non-staff costs, looking at voluntary severance schemes.

“It’s a mystery to me that they haven’t formally balloted members on the full and final offer that employers have made.”

EIS-Fela continue to support industrial action.

Speaking with the Clyde Insider last month, David Belsey, Assistant Secretary with the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said:

“Our members in FE have not had a pay rise since August 2021. They were supposed to have a pay rise in August 2022, and they were supposed to have a pay rise in August 2023. So no pay rise since August 2021, and clearly since August 2021, there’s been a huge amount of inflation.

“The employers are tabling offers, and their final offer is below an acceptable level, and indeed below the Scottish Government’s own public sector pay policy, and the colleges are of course part of the public sector.

“The only action left in the armoury is to take industrial action, so that’s unfortunately what we’ve been forced to do.”

Striking lecturers give their view.

There have been more than a dozen strikes over the last ten years, and according to some, it is taking its toll. There is a growing unease among staff members about not only the pay dispute, but also about the relationship with their employers. EIS-FELA-affiliated lecturers told of their distress over the ongoing industrial dispute with CES.

Louise Thomson, EIS-Fela’s campus convenor at Clyde College, who also lectures in Geography and History at the college, said:

“Before the last ten years, I could count on one hand how many years we’ve been involved in industrial action. The whole situation is very regrettable. The cuts are not only distressing, but incomprehensible.

“We do feel getting a pay increase is important. This is about fighting for a sector that’s worth fighting for.”

James McIvor, a lecturer in television at Clyde College in attendance at Monday’s picket said:

“The impact on staff is demoralizing. We are all workers, very hard workers. If you speak to anyone here, no one wants to be on strike. And it impacts students – it impacts the courses, the planning, the structures.”

Asked whether he thought the strikes would be effective, McIvor said: “Definitely it will have an impact. I’m hoping that those in charge look at it and think, well, it’s not a good image for colleges.”

Patrick Amon, an English for Speakers of Other Languages lecturer who was also present at the rally, said:

“We’re not satisfied that wages have fallen behind inflation. There’s a handful of people whose incomes are doing very well, but for the majority of workers, living standards fall.”

While Amon said that he remained hopeful, he clarified that he was “hopeful because there’s a duty to be hopeful, rather than because there’s good reason to be hopeful.”

Students’ education impacted.

Mr. Donoghue did acknowledge the impact that the strike actions were having on students:

“It’s a very regrettable situation in the end, where students education is constantly year on year disrupted by strike action or other industrial action.”

Students have showed solidarity for striking lecturers this week, with some attending the strike.

Umer Farooq, a software engineering student at Clyde College who attended the picket Monday said he thought that lecturers’ pay, “Should be much higher, definitely.”

“If I was a teacher, I’d be doing the same thing. I don’t think the government is taking the issue as seriously as they should be.”

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