Colleges on strike as national pay dispute continues

Strike rally in Glasgow
College lecturer strikes have been underway since 2023 [PA Media]

Hundreds of lecturers are on strike at most of Scotland's colleges as part of a long-running pay dispute.

It is the first of nine national strikes by the EIS FELA union over the next three weeks.

The dispute stems from the pay rise lecturers were due in 2022.

The level of disruption varies between different courses and colleges.

College employers are offering lecturers a pay rise worth £5,000 covering three years. Part of this is backdated to 2022.

The union argues the offer is worth less than the pay deals given to other public sector workers.

A new four-year pay claim was submitted by them last week.

More talks are expected to take place this week but the union says the strikes will continue unless there is tangible progress.

In recent weeks there has been a programme of rolling strikes with different colleges affected on different days. There have also been targeted strikes at colleges in the constituencies of some government ministers.

Generally college buildings have remained open on strike days.

A further strike is planned for Thursday with seven more over the following fortnight.

'Extremely disappointing'

The EIS and College Employers Scotland last met on Thursday.

An EIS spokesperson said “Although a revised pay claim was tabled to College Employers Scotland at the meeting, the employer’s side was unable to offer any assurances on certain elements of the pay uplift as well other parts of the claim.

"This is extremely disappointing, given that the EIS FELA were hopeful these discussions would have been able to achieve enough tangible progress to consider suspending the proposed strike action which will now go ahead as planned."

The union is also concerned about what it sees as the underfunding of colleges by the Scottish government.

College Employers Scotland says some will be "perplexed" that the strikes are taking place.

Director Gavin Donoghue said: "The message to the EIS FELA is that the quickest and easiest way for this dispute to be resolved is for them to take the employers £5k pay offer to their members in a formal ballot.

Mr Donoghue said the Scottish government had made it clear on numerous occasions that they would not provide more money to fund a pay offer.

Some college lecturers fear this long-running pay dispute is not being treated by employers and the Scottish government with the urgency they believe it deserves.

They note that the Scottish government helped resolve pay strikes by council workers and teachers.

They also contrast this dispute with the efforts made to avert action in the NHS in Scotland.

It adds to a belief some college staff have that the sector is the poor relation in education compared to schools and universities.

There have been a number of college strikes in recent years - some national, some at individual colleges.

Some within the sector note that many lecturers received substantial rises through efforts to harmonise pay across the country.

However supporters of the action would argue that was a separate issue. This dispute, they say, is simply about ensuring pay keeps pace with the cost of living.