Thousands of college lecturers struck across Scotland on Wednesday in a battle over pay.
Members of the EIS Further Education Lecturers’ Association (Fela) union are determined to win a pay rise that at least matches the rate of inflation.
John Kelly, EIS branch secretary at West College Scotland told Socialist Worker, “We had big picket lines and support from students at our sites, and the reports coming in from across Scotland are that the strike has been very solidly supported.
“The management were seeing whether we could hold a strike successfully, and we have passed that test.”
The strike is the latest phase of an extended battle over pay.
Twenty years of local bargaining created wide differences between the pay of lecturers in different colleges. When central bargaining was re-introduced, lecturers fought for and won equalisation of pay across the sector in 2017 after sustained strikes.
As Pam Currie, EIS-Fela president, said, “By the nature of equal pay and harmonisation, some lecturers have had a pay uplift—not a pay rise—in recognition of the fact that they had been underpaid for years. Other lecturers, including those at some of the largest colleges in Scotland, have had nothing.”
But the college bosses and the Scottish government now insist that because justice has been restored, the extra money should count against any cost of living increase.
New College Lanarkshire EIS-Fela rep Angela McCormick told Socialist Worker, “It’s an outrage that winning equality is now being held against us. We are more determined than ever to get the result we deserve.”
Speaking at a rally in support of the pay campaign at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Wednesday, EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said, "The support at the picket lines this morning shows that EIS-Fela is stronger than ever.
“It is a disgrace that Colleges Scotland have not sat down to negotiate with us ahead of today’s strike. This is now the third year in a row that management intransigence has forced lecturers into strikes—initially to deliver an equal pay agreement and, now, in pursuit of fair cost of living pay settlements."
Pam added, “Lecturers have had no cost of living pay rise since April 2016, and management’s final offer, amounting to a consolidated rise of less than 1 percent per year, was overwhelmingly rejected in October 2018.”
The union says that if there is not progress towards a much better offer then further strikes will follow.
There is a potential for action by school teachers over pay as well. The EIS council last Saturday decided to give formal notice to employers of a strike ballot of school teachers later this month.
They had voted by 98 percent on a 74 percent turnout in an indicative ballot to reject a pay offer which would have seen rises heading towards 5 percent.
Teachers are demanding a rise of 10 percent to partially make up for a cut of 24 percent since 2008.
Action by lecturers and school teachers together could really shake the Scottish government and be an inspiration to others.