College lecturers across Scotland launched a two-day strike on Wednesday in a continuing dispute over the replacement of lecturers with poorer paid instructors with worse conditions.
Speaking from the picket line at West College Scotland, a series of strikers recorded videos. They said, “I’m on strike today because I want Nicola Sturgeon to recognise that students should be taught by lecturers, not instructors.”
One added, “Power to the people.”
The EIS-Fela union members struck for a day last week, and have announced a programme of escalating action.
Workers’ anger is heightened because bosses reneged on their own deal shortly after EIS-Fela members had accepted it.
The deal said, in effect, that the people who lecture in colleges are lecturers. But the bosses’ realised their own proposals would frustrate plans to replace lecturers.
There is a foretaste of what this means at Forth Valley College (FVC) in Falkirk, Alloa and Stirling where the system has already been implemented.
EIS members there are holding 18 days of strikes against the move. Hundreds of people joined an online rally on Wednesday to show support for the battle at FVC.
Anne-Marie Harley, the EIS branch convenor at FVC, said, “It’s been a hell of a year. 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.”
In other words college bosses are using a form of the fire and rehire tactics that are infecting many other areas.
“The college has agreed to a review. But we don’t trust it because it’s being carried out by management,” added Anne-Marie.
She stressed that the fight at FVC matters because if it is unchallenged, then it will spread across the whole sector.
College bosses say there is no national plan.
But replacing lecturers either wholesale or in part—such as half the week lecturing, half the week doing a non-lecturing role—affects at least half the sector. This includes Ayrshire, Argyll, Borders, City of Glasgow College, Edinburgh, Fife, Forth Valley, Inverness, Moray, Perth, and West Lothian colleges.
This is a wide-scale threat to all lecturers. City of Glasgow College, the largest college in Scotland, has just advertised a support staff job which includes the term “lecturing" in the job description three times. This is open provocation.
Amber Little, a FVC student, told the rally, “Thank you to striking lecturers. We need to fight for your jobs and for us to have the best teachers.
“The situation is horrendous for staff but students are also affected.
“Students need lecturers, not some watered down post.”
FVC lecturer William Dick said, “We’re getting shafted, it’s a kick in the teeth.”
Margaret Smith, former EIS president, said, “The pandemic has surely taught us how we depend on people with practical skills and knowledge. These are the very people who have come through FE colleges.
“Colleges need lecturers, paid lecturers and paid lecturers' salaries, no matter their subject. All students matter.”
Closing the rally John Kelly, the EIS-Fela national salaries convenor, said, “The Scottish government has a weak spot over education. We are going to keep asking Nicola Sturgeon—if someone is preparing classes, teaching classes and assessing students, are they a lecturer?
“She has been talking about Scottish rugby, Scottish football, Scottish weather—what about Scottish FE?”
The strikes have the potential to embarrass the Scottish National Party in the run-up to the 6 May elections. It’s good the EIS is escalating the action, and it must continue to do so—if necessary to an all-out strike.