Socialist Worker

Forth Valley College workers strike over jobs

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2746

On the picket line in Alloa

An EIS union member on the picket line in Alloa


Over 200 EIS union members at Forth Valley College, Scotland, began 18 days of strikes on Wednesday in an escalation of a dispute over jobs.

Action began at campuses, including Falkirk, Alloa and Stirling, against the removal of 30 lecturers’ jobs. It followed a ballot that saw 77 percent of EIS members voting yes to the strikes.

Management want changes that include the replacement of lecturers’ posts with support staff across a number of departments. These include hairdressing, construction, engineering and care.

The new roles are lower paid and don’t require any teaching qualification.

The EIS believes that its members are being asked to do the same job, but with much lower pay, less annual leave, and no limit to class contact time. The college simply wants more for less.

Anne-Marie Harley, the EIS branch convenor, told Socialist Worker, “There was strong support for the strike today. Because of the virus we couldn’t have a full picket, but we had a token presence at each campus.

“And then we had an online meeting with over 50 EIS members.

“This has been a long battle. Last February the college informed us they were shifting some lecturer posts to become ‘instructor assessors’. The choice for existing staff was to take voluntary severance or to sign on to the new contracts.”

Although the college denies it, it’s a form of fire and rehire—take the new conditions or leave.

Grades 

The new grades tear up hard-won gains for workers.

“Lecturers’ contracts are for 22 or 23 hours a week contact time. The new grades do a minimum of 25 hours and could be up to 35 hours contact time,” said Anne-Marie

“It’s been harrowing for those on the new terms. We have had people off sick, we’ve seen mental and physical health issues.

“There are lecturers who have worked here for 20 or 30 years who can’t cope, can’t do the hours.

“And there’s a huge impact on learners’ education. There’s not the time for preparation and helping students to think for themselves and to problem solve.

“It feels like the old days with a two-tier system and vocational education being undervalued.

“Students are standing with us and have sent messages of support during the strike.”

Workers have been taking action short of a strike since November. This included working to contract and then also refusing to mark students’ current work.

Another one-day strike is planned next week and then two days in the week up to Easter. After the holidays the plan is to strike for three days a week running up to the Scottish parliamentary elections in May.

Anne-Marie said, “The Scottish government brought in national bargaining, now it needs to make sure each college follows the agreements.”

Separately a national dispute is taking place over replacement of lecturers. It shouldn’t be settled without addressing the Forth Valley College issue.

Tweet messages of support to @eisforthvalley or email [email protected]

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