The EIS Fela further education union held its annual conference last week against a backdrop of anger over huge cuts. Delegates voted for a national demo and lobby of the Scottish National Party (SNP) Scottish government over funding.
Further education (FE) colleges have been “under constant attack since the age of austerity” EIS Fela president John Kelly told Socialist Worker. He said, “Colleges in Scotland are not in a good state at the moment.”
The past few years have seen student numbers drop by more than 100,000 and almost 7,000 staff have gone. The SNP has tried to disguise its cuts through a major restructure, creating ten larger regional colleges through mergers.
The mergers have caused rifts between college bosses and the government after further education was brought back into the public sector.
This forms part of the background to three college principals being sacked and suspended this year. Edinburgh College EIS branch secretary Penny Gower told Socialist Worker, “Principals got used to being unaccountable, overpaid and full of themselves.
“The mergers mean they are now subordinate to political appointments by the government. So one aspect is a power struggle at the top.”
But workers’ resistance has also played a critical role. Penny said, “The recent suspension in Glasgow was precipitated by a letter from the EIS branch laying out a whole series of criticisms.
“And at Edinburgh the principal was dumped after being trounced by a lecturer strike and huge vote to work to rule.”
As anger at cuts and expectations on the SNP to break with austerity grows, it makes for an explosive cocktail.