Socialist Worker

Scottish college lecturers show strikes are way to beat fire and rehire threats

by Donny Gluckstein
Issue No. 2753

EIS-Fela members on strike at the Stirling campus of Forth Valley College on Monday

EIS-Fela members on strike at the Stirling campus of Forth Valley College on Monday (Pic: EIS Forth Valley on Twitter)


Scottish college lecturers have won a major victory against the threat of nation-wide fire and rehire.

Around 5,000 EIS-Fela union members across all 26 Scottish colleges launched a series of escalating strikes in March. They were fighting plans to replace lecturers with instructors on lower pay and worse terms and conditions.

In response to the deal, Roz Foyer, Scottish TUC union federation general secretary, tweeted, “When workers stand together, they win together.”

The move would have hammered the education offered to young, working class people.

Charlie Montgomery, president of EIS-Fela, said, "A massive thanks to all members who took action to protect their own professionalism and defend the right of working class students to quality education.

“We have shown Colleges Scotland and the Scottish government that we understand colleges need lecturers.”

The lecturers suspended their strikes on Wednesday after ratifying an agreement. Once implemented, it will stop lecturer replacement and overturn bosses’ fire and rehire at Forth Valley College.

But workers at the college are remaining on strike. The battle continues to force the intransigent bosses to honour the deal and reinstate 25 lecturers who have been downgraded to their full job status, terms and conditions.

Hard

This victory was hard fought. An almost identical deal—called Employers’ Proposal—was negotiated in early March and the union suspended the action, only to discover that the employers walked away from it.

It was tricky balloting and striking in the pandemic because almost all members were working from home. When industrial action began, we faced a near total media blackout and a Scottish government that carefully looked away while the employers tried to crush the union.

What’s behind the surge in ‘fire and rehire’ attacks?
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What made the difference was workers’ determination to stand up for students and education—and the solidarity and lessons learned from other disputes.

Donations and messages of support showed we were not alone and helped reduce financial hardship for the worst affected. The “get the vote out” method borrowed from the UCU union’s successful campaign against redundancies at Heriot Watt university delivered large turnouts in ballots. 

And we made full use of the political opportunity created by the Scottish parliamentary election, which takes place on 6 May.

Social media and hustings meant politicians the length and breadth of Scotland were hounded with the question—“If you teach in a college are you a lecturer?” Nicola Sturgeon was eventually compelled to say that fire and re-hire was unacceptable.

With bosses using fire and rehire across Britain, the Scottish college lecturers have shown that sustained strikes are the way to beat back the attacks.


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