Row breaks out over letter sent to college lecturers

Written by Gemma Fraser on 21 March 2019 in News

Colleges Scotland has accused the EIS of 'misrepresenting' their pay offers to lecturers 

Image credit: Jisc

A row has broken out after the college sector’s management body wrote to lecturers asking them to reconsider taking further action in a dispute over pay.

The union representing college lecturers has described the move as “unacceptable behaviour”.

The letter was issued by Colleges Scotland after it claimed the EIS-FELA union “continually misrepresent” the pay offers the colleges are making to lecturers.

The union is asking for a fair cost of living increase in line with public sector pay.

The letter sent to lecturers said: “Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association has formally met the EIS-FELA on 14 separate occasions to try and end this 2017-20 pay dispute and has tabled eight offers trying to reach an agreement.

“We are disappointed that the EIS-FELA has taken its members out on strike action without ever formally putting any of our offers to its members to consider, and we know through their communications that the EIS-FELA has claimed our seventh offer is only two per cent over three years, when the actual offer is a flat cash settlement of £625 to all lecturers for years one and two with public sector pay policy in year three – which is three per cent if you earn less than £36,500 or two per cent if you earn over £36,500.”

Commenting on the letter, Alex Linkston, chair of Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association, said: “Colleges are gravely concerned with the direction the EIS-FELA is heading in as they are committed to withholding assessment results if they receive a mandate from their members for action short of strike action.

“Such a course of action would severely affect students in the sector as without external verification by awarding bodies, they would be unable to achieve their qualifications, meaning they would be unable to move on to other courses at college or university, finalise their apprenticeships or move into jobs.

“This cannot be right, and we believe many lecturers will be aghast at this ploy, and, if so, we ask them to make it clear to their EIS-FELA branches they do not want to put the students at such a disadvantage.

“Lecturers in Scotland are by far the best paid in the UK, and the pay harmonisation rises from 2017 to 2020, combined with the current pay offer on the table from colleges, equates to a national average increase of over £5,000, but the EIS-FELA has rejected this and refuses to make any concessions or compromises at all. We are urging lecturers to make it clear to the EIS-FELA that it is finally time for them to engage meaningfully and actually negotiate.”

The EIS has attacked the content of the letter and criticised the management body for not following due process.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: “This is a disingenuous statement from Colleges Scotland, which continues to conflate harmonized equal pay with a cost of living pay rise.

“It also inaccurately portrays the steps the EIS has taken to keep its members fully informed throughout the dispute as well as the content of these communications.

“It is a blatant attempt by Colleges Scotland to bypass the proper collective bargaining process with trade unions via the National Joint Negotiating Committee.

“This is a clear breach of the Fair Work Convention and the latest example of unacceptable behaviour by a management body that is clearly unwilling to negotiate in good faith towards a fair pay settlement for college lecturers.”

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