Workers at Forth Valley College (FVC) in Falkirk, Alloa and Stirling are celebrating a victory for strikes and campaigning.
Anne-Marie Harley, the EIS-Fela union branch convenor, told Socialist Worker, “It’s a complete victory, total capitulation by management.”
FVC was a test bed for college bosses’ nationwide attacks.
In February 2020 the college told workers 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.
It was such a threat to jobs and conditions everywhere that it led to a national dispute. This saw a series of national strikes and then a victory last month.
Now the settlement has been fully applied at FVC itself.
Anne-Marie said, “There were 27 lecturers who were forced onto an inferior contract by a process similar to fire and rehire. They have all been reinstated to their lecturer contract with compensation for what they have lost.
“They would have been expected to work through the summer on the new contract. Now they will be on holiday.
“In addition, all the staff newly employed at the college on the inferior contract will be offered lecturer posts immediately. They will have access to the training and qualifications they need.
“Nobody has been left behind by this settlement—the staff who were hit, the new staff and the students who have proper teaching.”
The victory follows sustained action and support from the students. It should be an inspiration to everyone fighting fire and rehire. Victory is possible—without making concessions.
Anne-Marie said, “It was the right thing to do. We were determined to fight for our members, but also for the status of vocational education.
“It is not acceptable to say that one group of students can be taught by people on worse terms and conditions and without the appropriate teaching qualifications.
“The most important element was the enormous perseverance of the workers at FVC. They kept going through 11 strike days, losing money and suffering real stress. The students were onboard as well.
“And there was important political pressure, particularly from the Greens. It was an embarrassment for the Scottish government to be denouncing fire and rehire in general but doing nothing about a similar process on its own doorstep.
“At points we all had our doubts, but in the end we won completely.”
EIS member Donny Gluckstein told Socialist Worker, “It’s fire and rehire reversed after 15 months.
“The EIS had a choice to allow each college to fight on its own, or follow the motto of ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’. We decided national strikes were essential.
“Significantly, the first breakthrough came on 4 May, two days before the Holyrood election when, under political pressure, the employers settled in general terms.
“That only came after escalating strikes. It was designed to make clear to members and management alike that this was not a token effort but would continue until victory was won.
“Throughout the dispute the leadership was in the hands of lay reps at branch and national level.”
The FVC example, and the lessons of the national dispute, need to be widely publicised. Action gets results.