College staff vote 80% for strike action

UNISON members across Scotland’s colleges have voted by an overwhelming 80% to move to a strike ballot.

Having previously rejected the college employers’ below inflation pay offer, and with the cost of living crisis rapidly worsening, college support staff have now authorised a formal ballot for industrial action to fight for a better deal.

In an online consultation, the voter turnout surpassed the 50% turnout requirement for the upcoming postal ballot. UNISON is the largest trade union for college support staff, and this consultation involved thousands of members from all parts of Scotland.

Union representatives will meet with college employers leaders on Monday in a bid to resolve the dispute.

Chris Greenshields, UNISON further education Scotland branch secretary said: “Our members have made it clear that they will take industrial action if necessary to improve the latest pay offer. Government forecasters are predicting forty-year high inflation and the biggest drop in living standards on record. A real terms pay cut is not an option we can accept. College employers need to get round the table with UNISON to design a pay package which can give staff some hope for the year ahead. It is unacceptable that a pay rise which is now over 6 months late is not the main priority for the employers. Staff working in colleges deserve better.”

Collette Bradley, UNISON further education Scotland branch chair said: “Members who kept colleges operational during the pandemic are now facing choices between heating and eating and the worst has yet to come. Members have not even been compensated to date by the sector for expenses incurred from homeworking. Employers now need to work with unions, in the interest of staff wellbeing, to protect our members from the ravages of this latest crisis around the cost of living. If our members are to be able to focus fully on their jobs, rather than on how to make ends meet, the employers need to make significant movement”.

Lorcan Mullen, UNISON Scotland head of higher and further education said: “UNISON members in Scotland’s colleges have again backed their negotiators, and the strong turnout is encouraging ahead of a formal industrial action ballot. We will approach dispute resolution meetings with an open mind, but will not shy away from industrial action or assertive campaigning if that is what it takes to get members the best possible protection from spiralling inflation.”

UNISON is the trade union for college support staff. We are the largest trade union in Scotland representing public services workers in education, local government, health, police staff, energy and social care.
This was an online consultative ballot, involving thousands of members from all parts of Scotland.

UNISON Contacts:
• Danny Phillips, communications officer: 07944 664110