Socialist Worker

Scottish lecturers get their bosses telt

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2555

Part of Saturdays victory rally

Part of Saturday's victory rally (Pic: Duncan Brown)


College lecturers in Scotland held a victory rally on Saturday after their bosses "crumbled" on Friday in the face of an escalating national dispute.

The mood in Glasgow's George Square was buoyant. Bosses' refusal to honour a pay deal 14 months ago provoked six walkouts, which only grew in strength.

Management have been forced to honour the deal. In return lecturers suspended their strikes while talks on conditions continue.

One lecturer quipped that the downpour at the start of the rally was "management's tears".

The lecturers' EIS Fela union general secretary Larry Flanagan told the rally it was a "victory to be proud of". He added, "Management provoked a dispute that they thought would crumble. They thought escalating action wouldn't happen. The truth is, they've crumbled."

I've voted SNP before but I won't again. I think they'll lose thousands of votes over this.

NCL lecturer Alison

Student Kelly told the rally, “Lecturers have taught us how to stand up for what is right and stand strong together, no matter how hard the media and management try to divide us.”

Flanagan warned that bosses “better get used to the new adjustment”. He said, “This union is stronger than it was six weeks ago.”

Picket lines saw new faces as strikers gained confidence from the action.

"Our pickets got stronger every day," said Eileen, the New College Lanarkshire (NCL) EIS Fela branch secretary.

"People not normally active in the union have been very active and they want to do more. The union is going from strength to strength, management have actually done us a big favour."

EIS Fela president John Kelly told Socialist Worker how "at the start we had people asking what a picket line was and what happened on it.

"But then they started turning up in huge numbers. They started bringing drums, accordions, tambourines. One of the colleges had well over 200 on the picket one of the days.

"We even had a picket line in Benbecula [in the Outer Hebrides], as far as I know there has never been such a thing."

Years of bosses squeezing workers' pay while feathering their own nests fuelled anger. Susan from West College is still furious that bosses' perks and bonuses "are on the back of our hard work but we're not recognised".

Disbelief

One principal in Glasgow is paid more than Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

As one South Lanarkshire lecturer put it, "If you run something within a country then surely you shouldn't get paid more than the person that runs the country."

Promises of national bargaining six years ago from the Scottish National Party (SNP) government stalled while massive cuts took place.

The fact it took a national strike last year to finally force a deal and then 14 months of backtracking by bosses, with little if any intervention from the SNP, has exposed the party in many strikers' eyes.

Last week the education minister John Swinney sided with bosses and said the union should suspend the strikes. But it backfired, caused more anger and the strike continued the next day.

NCL lecturer Alison said, "The SNP are taking the piss and Swinney's speech just made people madder.

As college lecturers stage fifth national walkout SNP minister sides with bosses
As college lecturers stage fifth national walkout SNP minister sides with bosses
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"I've voted SNP before but I won't again. I think they'll lose thousands of votes over this."

During the strikes, lecturers lobbied SNP MSPs, protested at their offices and at the Scottish parliament demanding the SNP government intervened. This pressure was crucial, John said, "You've got to work on a number of fronts.

"And you've got to work on the political. This dispute got settled by politicians in the background."

The SNP now wants to take credit for the deal but as Eileen said, "There is no doubt that our action was the biggest factor in securing a deal. The lesson is hang tough, hang together. Use your strength and you will win."

The battle isn't over. Talks are ongoing over conditions and there are likely to be more attempts by bosses to claw something back. But one thing is certain, striking works.


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