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College Employers Scotland criticises new strikes by EIS-FELA

student stressed while looking at a laptop

College strikes will not secure an improved staff pay offer and can only damage students’ education, a trade union has been told.  

College Employers Scotland (CES), the national body for colleges as employers, has issued the message to lecturers who are members of the EIS-FELA as fresh strike action begins in different locations from today (Tuesday 16 April 2024).

CES has offered the EIS-FELA and support staff unions (UNISON, Unite and GMB) a £5,000 consolidated pay rise over three academic years. However, the proposal has been rejected by the EIS-FELA, without a formal ballot of its members.

This is the employers’ full and final offer. If accepted, it would cost the college sector £72.5 million annually with no additional funding from the Scottish Government.

Employers have tabled the offer despite budget cuts of £32.7 million, or 4.7%, as set out in the Scottish Government’s 2024/25 Budget. Figures from the Auditor General also show that government funding for colleges has already dropped by 8.5% in real terms since 2021/22.

Gavin Donoghue, CES Director, said:

“Further strikes by the EIS-FELA will not, and cannot, lead to an improved pay offer from college employers, only more disruption for students.

“The £5,000 full and final pay offer is already at the limits of affordability for colleges, and is set against years of real-terms budget cuts and now a cash cut of over £32 million.

“Despite unprecedented financial pressures, colleges have put forward a substantial pay offer for lecturers which, if accepted by the EIS-FELA, would keep college lecturers in Scotland as the best paid in the whole UK.

“The EIS-FELA should put this offer to its members in a formal ballot, as it would deliver an 11.5% average pay increase for college lecturers from September, and give those at the start of the National Pay Scale a rise of 14.2%.

“The pay offer would also mean that the average college lecturer is almost £1,500 better off than they would be under Public Sector Pay Policy.

“Employers have also acknowledged the EIS-FELA’s concern about job security and have agreed in writing to the trade union’s suggested wording that any compulsory redundancies would not be directly related to the full and final pay offer.

“Colleges simply cannot offer to give what they do not have, especially when government funding is set to fall by nearly 5% in 2024/25. The Scottish Government has confirmed on a number of occasions that it will not fund a pay award in the college sector.

“We urge the EIS-FELA to cancel its industrial action and put the employers’ full and final pay offer to its members in a formal ballot.”

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