A major industrial battle is raging in Scotland that the mainstream press has largely ignored for two weeks. Today, Thursday, thousands of college lecturers held their fourth national walkout in a fortnight.
Coverage has been so bad that in Glasgow over 100 strikers from several colleges protested outside BBC Scotland headquarters chanting “BBC, tell the truth!”
In over two decades there have been just five national college strikes in Scotland, four in the past fortnight and one last year. The silence from the press is astonishing.
Bigger picket lines were reported today across the 20 colleges involved in the dispute over bosses’ refusal to honour a deal signed with over 4,600 EIS Fela union members 14 months ago.
Lecturers’ organisation is growing in strength. One Glasgow Clyde College striker told Socialist Worker, “It's really important to hold branch meetings to build the pickets and the strikes. Seeing the branch meeting packed out definitely gave us more confidence to fight.”
Students are also starting to get organised. Cheryl has set up a student solidarity Facebook group to back the strikes. She told Socialist Worker, “We know the lecturers care about students. We’re trying to encourage students to get involved, support the lecturers and join the picket lines.
“During the next strike we plan to organise a ‘students support the lecturers’ rally in Glasgow. We ask all students to come out and get them telt. If the deal is honoured we get our lecturers back.”
Strikers’ anger is now being directed at Scottish National Party (SNP) politicians’ refusal to intervene.
“The silence from the education minister and the further education minister is unsustainable. We are not going away,” EIS Fela rep Angela told Socialist Worker.
She added, “If we have to strike again next week we will, in bigger numbers, and call on our political representatives to use their power to get employers to honour the deal they made.”
Fife College strikers took their message today to the Dunfermline office of Shirley-Anne Somerville, the SNP minister responsible for further education.
The Motherwell and Wishaw SNP constituency office received a visit from strikers in Lanarkshire.
In Edinburgh they protested outside Bute House, the official residence of the first minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon. She has claimed that if the government has to intervene it would mean the failure of national bargaining.
She and her ministers are missing the key point—national bargaining is already failing. That’s why they face a series of escalating walkouts in further education.
Sturgeon’s deputy party leader Angus Robertson took time out from his bid to stop the Tories taking his Westminster seat to visit the picket line at Moray College in the north east.
Strikers urged him to speak out that the strike was not about them wanting a 9 percent pay rise or better holidays, “this is about harmonisation which the Scottish government said it is committed to”.
Robertson told strikers, “I’ll be happy to underline that point today.”
He has yet do so publicly, but made sure to tweet a picture of himself at the picket line on the #honourthedeal message thread.
If politicians want to take credit for supporting picket lines then they should use their influence to back lecturers defending further education from bosses trying to undermine it.
The Glasgow Clyde College striker said, “People are really angry. Management are just so cynical. It's not just that they don't care about us. They don't care about the students either.
“This is a very important battle. We can't back down here. If we don't win, the management will come after us for more cuts. Victory is crucial.”