A secretive and influential firm of lobbyists with close links to the Scottish National Party (SNP) is working on behalf of bosses’ group Colleges Scotland.
Charlotte Street Partners (CSP) are “earning their big fee” by keeping a wave of strikes against their client out of the press.
This was the claim made last Sunday by Lothians MSP Neil Findlay.
A major industrial battle is raging in Scotland that the media has largely ignored for two weeks.
CSP’s client Colleges Scotland is refusing to honour a deal it made with the EIS Fela union 14 months ago.
Findlay’s claims raise serious questions about the £470,000 a year Colleges Scotland gets to implement national bargaining from Scottish Funding Council. The council is a public body of the Scottish government.
It also turns the spotlight on the shadowy firm’s links with the SNP.
CSP managing partner is former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson—still working at a senior level for the party.
Former SNP spin doctor Kevin Pringle also works for CSP.
Today, Tuesday, college lecturers staged their fifth national walkout since 27 April and were set to strike again on Wednesday. They plan to escalate to a three-day strike next week.
Eileen, the EIS Fela branch secretary at New College Lanarkshire, told Socialist Worker, “This action is seriously hitting further education”.
She said the employers’ attitude was making workers “very angry”, as is the misreporting of their dispute in the press.
Coverage has been so bad that in Glasgow last Thursday over 100 strikers from several colleges protested outside BBC Scotland headquarters chanting “Tell the truth!”
Talks with Colleges Scotland once again produced only demands from bosses that lecturers accept cuts—compromising the quality of further education.
Bosses are demanding the union accepts the cuts to preparation time before they will honour a pay deal agreed last year.
But 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.”
Lecturers were boosted by the news last week that their 55,000-strong EIS union was stepping up its backing with a new strike fund.
Students are also getting 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. If the deal is honoured we get our lecturers back.”
Students plan to rally in Glasgow on Wednesday to back their lecturers.
Strikers’ anger is now rightly being directed at the SNP’s 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.
Last Thursday’s strike saw workers protest at local SNP MSPs’ offices and the official residence of SNP first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
With this kind of mood for action politicians campaigning for the general election could be in for a rough time on the campaign trail.
Sturgeon has urged bosses to “go the extra mile” to get a settlement. But she also claimed that if the government has to intervene it would mean the failure of national bargaining.
Sturgeon is missing the key point—national bargaining is already failing. That’s why they face a series of escalating walkouts in further education.
The Glasgow Clyde 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.”
UCU London region and Unite the Resistance are co-hosting a meeting for solidarity with EIS strikers. Friday 19 May, 6.30pm, upstairs at The Cheshire Cheese pub, 5 Little Essex St, London WC2R 3LD.
EIS Fela will be holding a lobby in George Square, Glasgow on Saturday 20 May from 1pm until approximately 2pm