By Sophie Squire
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2870

Edinburgh College strikers are out to stop victimisation and defend education

It’s part of a fightback against an assault on further education across Scotland
Issue 2870
 Edinburgh College strikers in June holding blue EIS union flags and placards

Edinburgh College strikers in June (Picture: EIS-Fela Edinburgh College)

Workers plan major strikes at Edinburgh College after management victimised and sacked lecturer and prominent trade union activist Kevin Scally.

Earlier this year workers in the EIS-Fela union struck for four days over compulsory redundancies.

Now union members plan to strike for two weeks from Monday over Kevin’s dismissal as the only redundancy made so far.They are out to halt an attack on Kevin and the union and to prevent further job cuts that would follow.

Workers at different campuses are planning to alternate strike days. This means that at least two campuses will be disrupted every day of the strike. 

Kevin told Socialist Worker there’s no justification for his dismissal. “I was marked on a matrix and got high scores for things like my teaching. But when it came to managers’ opinions, I was marked much lower,” he said.

“I appealed the matrix results and was told, ‘We’re making you redundant whatever you do’.” 

“It feels targeted,” Kevin added. “It feels like those higher-ups managed my redundancy. It’s not like there are no jobs at the college. There are courses I could have taught on. 

“But I was told I wasn’t qualified enough to teach them. But the next minute, they’re using support staff to teach when I am more qualified than them. 

“At the end of June, I was officially made redundant. As a last insult, my redundancy pay was eight days late. Apparently, there was no malice behind that whatsoever. 

“My sacking was about trying to get rid of me,” Kevin argued. “More broadly, the goal of college bosses here is to break the union.” 

And Kevin told Socialist Worker that managers have created an environment inside the college that is “deeply wrong.” 

“In January we were told to attend one of two meetings,” Kevin explained. “189 of us were told that we would face targeted voluntary severance. In total, management said they wanted to get rid of 32 full-time posts. 

“We were told the window to claim severance would end in July. But then, out of the blue, we were told we had ten days to apply. This caused a lot of panic. 

He added that the severance threat has led to the mood at the college being at “rock bottom.” 

“Everyone feels affected by the threat of redundancy.

“Even those who weren’t offered severance see that their colleagues’ and friends’ jobs are threatened. And they could be next as the college bosses say they still want to make savings.” 

“The number of days that staff have taken off for mental health reasons has tripled in the last years, and these are management’s figures.” 

Kevin explained that the situation at Edinburgh College is just one example of how Further education (FE)  is being dismantled across Scotland and the rest of Britain. 

“People come to teach at Edinburgh College with a wealth of experience. They quickly conclude that something is wrong here. 

“Around 40 percent of staff teach at the college, and 60 percent are support staff or managers. Of course, none of the managers are threatened with redundancy. 

“Our college, like many others, is run by overpaid bosses who have never been in the classroom or haven’t been in a classroom for decades. 

“Everything has become about profit, from how the bosses allow our classes to be over-filled, so sometimes there aren’t enough chairs for all the students, to these redundancies.” 

Lecturers at City of Glasgow College are also planning to strike to hit back at the bosses’ plans to make 100 staff members redundant. 

Members of the EIS union there are planning a 15-day strike beginning on 5 September. 

College workers should unite and fight, and their union at every level should back them all the way.

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