Scotland’s colleges braced for national strike of support workers
College worker - credit Steven Lee
Colleges Scotland has said its members are braced for a strike by support workers next month after a ballot of UNISON members backed industrial action.
The trade union will take part in negotiations at the end of the month but warns a strike looks “unavoidable”after saying support for an all-out strike was “overwhelming”.
The dispute follows accusations managers were seeing bigger pay rises than lower earners despite promises of a return to national bargaining and equal ‘flat’ pay increases.
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Lecturers were offered a flat rate rise after strikes by teaching union the EIS earlier in the year. UNISON members, including administrative, cleaning and catering staff are now asking for the same.
Chris Greenshields, chair of UNISON’s further education committee, said: “Our demand is simple and fair. Pay college support staff the same amount that you gave to our teaching colleagues. We work for the same colleges, help deliver the same courses, support the same students and deserve the same cost of living increase.”
However, Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, accused UNISON of “misrepresenting the facts”.
“UNISON’s case for strike action is based on factually confused comparisons between the deal done with lecturers in April and the agreement that we reached with support staff in January,” she said.
“It is important to understand that the settlement for lecturers was a two-year deal while the support staff settlement was only for 2015/16 and negotiations are ongoing for 2016/17.”
Pay still varies between Scotland’s 26 colleges, although all sides have now committed to national bargaining. January saw the new National Joint Negotiating Committee agree a commitment to give support workers the living wage across all colleges.