Socialist Worker

Resistance in Scottish further education saves lives

by Donny Gluckstein
Issue No. 2737

Lecturers won in 2017

Lecturers won in 2017 (Pic: Duncan Brown)


Scottish further education (FE) workers have revolted over safety.

After Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a “stay at home” lockdown, a minister issued a letter saying existing pre-Christmas arrangements for colleges were still sufficient.

These rules had allowed  20-40 percent of FE students on to campus.

If unopposed thousands would have congregated in colleges from 5 January. Members of EIS-FELA—the college wing of the teaching union—acted.

On 7 January, after mobilising the recently formed EIS-FE safety reps’ network and lay branch reps, the EIS was urged to challenge the advice.

With the UCU, Unison and Unite unions, the EIS demanded the Scottish government ban face to face teaching until it was safe.

The next day the minister’s advice changed, saying all face to face teaching should be reduced to an “absolutely essential minimum”.

Forcing

A few principals remain bent on forcing students in. Their definition of what is “essential” seemed to be commercial courses or hair and beauty.

South Lanarkshire FELA members held a giant EIS online members’ meeting in response.

It unanimously decided that if the principal did not change position the branch would go into dispute, and also encourage members to submit Section 44 letters.

Management was forced into a massive retreat.

Resistance saves lives. The same will apply to jobs.

The Scottish government publicly promotes lecturers’ professionalism. But it turns a blind eye to lecturers being fired and rehired or replaced as instructors who would do the same job but on less pay.

EIS-FELA is shortly to hold a national statutory strike ballot to win over this issue.


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