Socialist Worker

Victory for striking Scottish Further Education lecturers

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2495

The lecturers solid strike, and plans for more, broke the bosses

The lecturers' solid strike, and plans for more, broke the bosses (Pic: @EISUnion)


Scottish further education college lecturers have scored a stunning victory in their battle for national bargaining and equal pay.

Bosses have crumbled after just a single day's strike. In the early hours of this morning, Saturday, 13 hours of talks ended with a three-year deal to be recommended by the EIS-Fela union's negotiating team.

A vote is still to take place on the deal, but it means by April 2019 lecturers in Scotland will get the same pay scale at every college. For the lowest paid it means a whopping 33 percent pay rise.

Focusing the campaign on the Scottish National Party (SNP) government has paid dividends. Workers have won a speedy victory by calling out the SNP ahead of the official start of the Scottish elections on Wednesday of next week, coupled with a strategy of escalating strikes.

Up to 5,000 lecturers staged a solid strike last Thursday. More than 350 then lobbied the Scottish parliament the same day. Chants of "Nicola Sturgeon here us say, all we want is equal pay" could be heard in the chamber and frightened the SNP leader into finally taking action.

Bosses at three Glasgow colleges had refused to sign up to national bargaining. They were they first to cave in. Then it was the turn of Colleges Scotland to crumble. The bosses' organisation had continually argued there was no money to meet the lecturers' demands.

Facing the prospect of every non-SNP Holyrood election candidate having a stick to beat them with, Sturgeon and Co suddenly found a pot of cash.

And Sturgeon was nervous. Roslina Asif and her sister Maria raised the issue of equal pay for lecturers with Nicola Sturgeon when they met with her at the Scottish parliament on Thursday. They are both students at FE colleges in Glasgow who support the lecturers. They told Socialist Worker that a rattled Sturgeon claimed she would "solve this once and for all".

Harmonised

Staged payments over the next three years will harmonise pay. And there is a commitment to also agree harmonised terms and conditions based on best practice by autumn this year.

Even the imposed 1 percent pay deal for 2015/2016 - allegedly just an "interim payment" - is to be topped up with an extra £100 for everyone. For 2016/2017 a further £450 rise will go to every college lecturer.

No pay will be docked for last Thursday's strike and lecturers are to be paid for extra classes to help their students catch up with any work missed during the strike.

It's a resounding victory—and the news of it needs to be spread far and wide.

Penny Gower, EIS-Fela branch secretary at Edinburgh College, spoke to Socialist Worker. She said, "This has taught a whole new layer of young FE lecturers that united strikes can win.

New College Lanarkshire EIS-Fela rep Angela McCormick agreed. She said, "Our staff are not near the lowest rate but the pickets were big on Thursday. And contrary to certain stereotypes it was the lecturers from hairdressing, beauty and make-up courses that were the stand out activists during the strike.

"You might think that this was a speedy victory, and it was, but it's been a long time coming. We put further education at the heart of the political debate in Scotland."

This success will be a boost to workers everywhere fighting austerity and to defend education and other public services. 


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