The move follows two days of strike action last month that saw chaos across the country’s 20 colleges.
Classes were cancelled, nurseries closed, libraries unsupported, additional learning needs withdrawn, evening classes cancelled and school pupils excluded from vocational training.
The row centres on the pay rise for 2016, as college bosses awarded lecturing staff a flat rate rise of £450, while most low-paid support staff were offered £230 – almost half that awarded to their teaching colleagues.
Strike action planned for later this month will now take place later this term if talks fail to reach a resolution. Action short of strike action will continue with support staff withdrawing from acting in the additional roles of first aider, fire marshall and evacuation officer.
John Gallacher, UNISON regional organiser, said: “Many colleges are struggling and failing to comply with health and safety regulations. Some are employing illegal agency staff to provide essential daily first aid provision. UNISON does not believe that colleges will be safe places for young learners and staff when they re-open after half term. We already had one report of a UNISON first aider having to ‘break the strike’ to assist with a student who had fallen and split their head.”
Chris Greenshields, chairman of UNISON Scotland’s further education committee, said: “The resolve of support staff in this dispute is remarkable and growing every day. Politicians locally and nationally support our claim, students’ associations and the NUS are behind us.
“The EIS says that support staff should receive the same £450 pay rise awarded to their members back in Easter.
The only people who do not see the fairness and equity of this outcome are 20 senior managers on six figure salaries who make up the dmployers’ association. Hopefully common sense will prevail in the ACAS talks and further industrial action can be averted as the crucial end of term period approaches.”
Cal Waterson, GMB full-time official, said: “This is a simple dispute about equality of treatment and fair pay. Low-paid women workers should not have been forced out on strike and to lose pay in order to fight for equal pay. GMB calls on the further education employers to resolve this pay dispute now.”