Scottish college lecturers have announced a series of escalating strikes to force bosses at 20 colleges to honour an equal pay deal struck over a year ago.
The first of 12 walkouts is set for next Thursday. The EIS-Fela union members are then set to strike again on Wednesday of the following week.
The strikes—involving over 4,600 workers—are timed to pressure the Scottish National Party (SNP) ahead of the Scotland-wide council elections on 4 May.
EIS-Fela president John Kelly said, "I'm sure striking during local and national election campaigns will focus minds, not least those leading the SNP.
“The SNP will have key targets both locally and nationally, FE is a local and a national issue.
He added, “Our strike campaign is just and fair—management must honour a deal they voluntarily signed up for over a year ago.”
Penny, EIS-Fela branch secretary at Edinburgh College, added, “This is an attack on our conditions and the conditions that our students learn in.
“They are not for sale—we’ll keep fighting until we win.”
Lecturers are set to escalate to two strike days each week then three-day strikes each week throughout May.
If bosses don’t budge more walkouts could be called.
The strategy is a good one—and was used to great effect before the 2016 Scottish parliament elections.
SNP first minister Nicola Sturgeon was desperate to avoid the embarrassment of a national dispute provoked by her party’s further education policy before the vote.
After claiming there was no money to pay lecturers the same salary in all 20 colleges, bosses quickly found money after strikes cancelled classes across Scotland.
But college workers are still waiting, six years after the SNP’s manifesto pledge, for the proper implementation of the return to national bargaining. Five years of SNP college mergers brought staff, student and course cuts while bosses squirrelled away millions and also filled their own pockets.
Last time EIS-Fela called over 30 strike days but it took just one solid walkout for bosses to cave in.
The pay of the lowest paid lecturers should have risen substantially this month as part of that deal. But bosses are trying to retrospectively rewrite agreements and ignore formally minuted decisions.
Workers’ outrage was reflected in the 60 percent turnout and 96 percent strike vote achieved in a two-week long ballot. It shows that the Tories’ anti-union laws are not a barrier to national strikes.
Every SNP council candidate should be asked why their party is not stepping in to stand on the side of the workers.
Trade unionists should get to the lecturers’ picket lines next Thursday. Solidarity can boost workers’ confidence to keep escalating action until they win.