UNISON members across Scotland’s 20 further education (FE) colleges will go on strike on Tuesday as an autumn of discontent kicks off in the troubled sector.
The dispute, on September 6, is the result of college bosses awarding lecturing staff a £450 flat rate rise in May 2016, while most college support staff have been offered a flat rate of £230. College support staff (administration, admissions, funding, catering, cleaning, advisors, security, classroom assistants, technicians and others) are calling for fair pay and parity with their lecturing colleagues.
UNISON ( UNITE and GMB) took part in national negotiations last week (August 25) but FE bosses failed to bring anything new to the table after earlier talks in the new Scottish-wide bargaining forum had failed. The other support staff trade unions are supporting the campaign and strikes will now follow.
John Gallacher, UNISON’s Scottish organiser, said: “Striking is a last resort, but we will support our members in every way possible to achieve the same fair and reasonable pay settlement as already paid out to teaching colleagues. In a sector which sees top principals paid close to the salary of the Scottish First Minister, we should not be fighting over the difference between £230 and £450 for some 2,500 staff. UNISON has written to every principal and every MSP in a last ditch attempt to avoid this unnecessary and damaging dispute.”
Shirley Sephton, vice chairman of UNISON’s further education committee, said: “The colleges should use a small portion of the extra £8.1 million given to the sector this year to address operational pressures to resolve this dispute before things get worse. Recent surveys of our membership have shown real low morale in support staff. We have been through a difficult merger process and we can’t allow a two-tier system to develop. The failure of the employers to deliver a fair and equitable pay award is a further kick in the teeth to overworked and underpaid college support staff. High student dropout rates recently reported will not be helped by alienating key support staff.”
Chris Greenshields, chairman of UNISON’s further education committee, said: “Our demand is simple and fair.
“Pay college support staff the same flat rate rise (£450) that you gave to our teaching colleagues. We work for the same colleges, help deliver the same courses, support the same students and deserve the same cost of living increase.”