Lecturers at Edinburgh College have voted to strike over the unjustified sacking of a colleague and the victimisation of union rep Penny Gower who represented him.
The ballot result came in the week that a committee of MSPs described management’s handling of the college finances as “a total failure”.
Penny is branch secretary of the EIS-Fela union at Edinburgh. Targeting her is clearly a ploy to distract attention from the way the college is run and weaken the union branch.
There is also a national dimension to this.
Since the success of the Scottish-wide lecturers’ equal pay strike in March, leading branch officials across Scotland have found themselves under attack in various ways.
Penny is a prominent figure at national level as
EIS-Fela ex-president and one of the team of national bargainers.
So defeat in Edinburgh would help pave the way for rolling back the gains made in March.
The ballot was only an indicative one but the EIS was expected to approve a statutory one this week.
The campaign is on to elect Jo McNeill as the UCU union’s general secretary. Jo is standing as the UCU Left candidate against incumbent Sally Hunt.
The election comes at a time when education is under huge attack—and the union’s response should be much stronger.
Jo told Socialist Worker, “We’ve entered into lots of fights that we’ve eventually backed away from. What’s been lacking is an effective strategy to motivate our members and give them confidence.”
Jo has been on the union’s national executive committee for four years.
She has won widespread support. “I was meant to get 50 signatures to stand—I ended up with almost 230,” she said. If elected she hopes to build a more effective strategy to take on the Tories’ attacks.
“We need to build high-profile campaigns prior to ballots going out,” she said. “And we need to make sure that any fights we go into are built from the ground up.”
The election opens on 1 February next year and closes on 1 March.
A ballot for strikes at the University of Aberdeen ended as Socialist Worker went to press.
UCU union members were balloting in response to planned cuts.
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