By Matt Dobson
After six days of national strike action, lecturers in Scotland’s colleges have won a major victory in their fight for fair and equal pay and harmonised terms and conditions.
The dispute was won as an escalation of the action was due to take place. The EIS FELA union refused to call off their action as demanded by the SNP’s education minister, John Swinney, who in a statement to parliament attacked the union and its members and claimed their action was harming students.
The SNP have shown yet again their hostility to workers taking strike action, as was the case in last years RMT dispute with ScotRail.
A 96% vote for strike action, mass lobbies of parliament and well-attended picket lines, as well as support from students, were an illustration of the determination of the lecturers to fight for their case.
They demanded that the management “Honour The Deal” that was agreed after last years strike action which resulted in pay equalisation and increases and nationally agreed terms and conditions. Management had reneged on the agreement and this led to the new round of strike action.
Students were overwhelmingly supportive of the lecturers action. As one of the organisers of the student rally in Glasgow in support of the lecturers commented’ “This is a fight so our lecturers can have proper time to prepare our classes and work. This is about cuts. They want to save money rather than give us a decent education.”
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS union, said: “We have reached a position where Colleges Scotland have agreed to Honour the Deal. This is a significant victory for our members and it means that the employers will move immediately to implement Phase 1 of the pay agreement. The breakthrough came on the back of an agreement on teaching hours for the sector.
“Crucially, a no detriment clause has been agreed for all current lecturers; for new starts it will be a maximum of 23 plus 1 (management wanted 24 hours class contact time plus two hours of cover per week) . Where members currently have 24 or 24 plus, they will migrate to the lower levels from next term.
“Members are thanked for their magnificent support and solidarity throughout this campaign. Your action has secured this win which will see equal pay delivered across the sector and create equitable common terms and conditions for the sector moving forward. It will also inspire other public sector workers fighting for fair pay. “
A Glasgow college lecturer told us: “Reports in the media, particularly on the BBC focused on lecturers taking strike action over holiday entitlement and when a 9% pay increase has been agreed.
“For the majority of lecturers it is 0-6% over three years. Some members have been underpaid for years.. The attack to holiday entitlement is a cut in colleagues hourly rate due to the additional hours worked.”
This victory should be a first step in a mass fightback against the business model in colleges and education linked with the fights against cuts and privatisation across the public sector.
Coordinated national action is needed by the trade unions, especially with Scottish Unison council workers balloting to take strike action for fair pay.