Breakthrough could end colleges dispute next week

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An end to the long-running colleges dispute may be in sight, following “protracted negotiations” at this week’s meeting - the 20th - aimed at finding a resolution.

Classes at Falkirk’s Forth Valley College (FVC) campus faced disruption earlier this month as teachers and lecturers went on a two-day strike over pay.

The industrial action was also taken at FVC’s other campuses in Alloa and Stirling.

The dispute could be settled this week, but college sector representatives warn the estimated £17.5million will have to be met by cuts.

Meanwhile unions have been urged to immediately suspend action, short of strike action, pending the result of their ballot.

Colleges Scotland has reached agreement in principle with the Educational Institute of Scotland Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA.

The employers association will meet on Wednesday to decide whether to ratify the terms of the pay, terms and conditions deal, while the EIS-FELA Executive will ballot its members with a recommendation to accept.

If the deal is agreed, all lecturers will receive £400 unconsolidated and £1,500 consolidated – covering a period of three years and five months.

The agreement runs from April 1, 2017 to August 31, 2020, bringing the pay period for lecturers into line with support staff workers.

Shona Struthers, CSEA chief executive, said: “Colleges’ improved offer to the EIS-FELA puts £1,900 more into every lecturers’ pocket in return for agreement on terms and conditions, and is in addition to the substantial financial gains for most lecturers from the harmonisation deal already agreed.

“In return for almost two thousand pounds more, colleges are offering industry-standard, flexible working arrangements for the end of automatically guaranteed discretionary time in colleges where it still exists.

“It is perfectly reasonable to expect employees to be at their place of work unless they have spoken with and have agreement from their line managers”.

She added: “Lecturers in Scotland are the best paid in the UK, earning £10,000 more than their English counterparts.

“The pay harmonisation rises from 2017 to 2020, combined with the improved pay offer agreed in principle with the EIS-FELA, equate to a national average increase of over £5,000 – or more than 13 per cent”.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, “Whilst the improved offer falls short of our original ambition it is a significant improvement on where we were only a few weeks ago.

“The EIS-FELA Executive was clear that this is the best offer available through negotiation, without further significant strike action being required.

“It has agreed to recommend acceptance on that basis, although members will have the option of voting to continue with industrial action.

“Ultimately, it will be for our members to decide.”