College staff urged ‘vote yes to strike’ in ballot across Scotland  

UNISON Scotland has formally notified college principals of its intention to ballot for industrial action on pay, after 92% of staff rejected the employers’ final pay offer in a consultation.

The official ballot will open on Wednesday 27 April. It will be the first national strike vote in further education for 6 years.

Teaching staff represented by EIS-FELA have also begun strike action on pay this week.

The employers’ final offer is £850 per year consolidated, with a £150 unconsolidated one-off payment. With inflation reaching thirty-year high this offer would constitute a significant real-terms pay cut.

If UNISON members vote yes to strike action, and employers do not offer a fair pay rise, all grades of staff in Scotland’s colleges will take industrial action across Scotland’s colleges before the end of this term.

Talks will resume on Friday (22 April). UNISON is urging college employers to come with a fair, constructive offer that recognises the severity of the cost of living crisis their workforce is facing.

Collette Bradley, chair of UNISON Scotland Further Education Branch said:  “The final pay offer for college staff fails to protect the most vulnerable from the ravages of inflation and rising costs. Nor does it compensate them for efforts throughout the pandemic to keep colleges operational, whether that be in the form of opening and cleaning buildings or turning their homes into workplaces. There has been no compensation paid to homeworkers to date.”

Chris Greenshields, branch secretary of UNISON Scotland Further Education Branch said: “The college employers’ approach is staggering. All unions in the college sector are now in dispute on pay. Staff deserved a pay rise to meet inflation by September 2021 and the employers are now 7 months late. Despite a couple of hours of informal talks there has been little progress. This is immensely frustrating and questions the employers’ desire to resolve this dispute. Our members need a proper pay rise now. Support staff in colleges are struggling with record rising cost of living and the least they should expect is some more urgency from the employers to address this.”

Lorcan Mullen, UNISON Scotland’s head of further education said: “Inflation is at a thirty year high, it’s no surprise UNISON members have strongly endorsed a move to an industrial action ballot. The cost-of-living crisis will have to be addressed with higher wages, especially for the lowest paid, and if the employers are not willing to offer that protection through negotiation, strikes will follow. We urge UNISON members to return their ballot as soon as they get it, and to vote yes to strike action.”

1. UNISON is the largest trade union for support staff in further education. EIS-FELA (representing lecturers) are starting industrial action on pay this week, and the two smaller support staff unions (UNITE & GMB) are also in dispute and considering next steps.
2. UNISON agrees that the further education sector is underfunded. It was particularly badly served in the last budget. Still, negotiators feel much more can be done to protect low-paid members in this crisis.

UNISON Contacts:
Lorcan Mullen Head of further education:  07903853116
Danny Phillips, communication officer: 07994664110