College staff win battle for fair pay

FE strikersFurther education members in Scotland have won an improved pay rise after a sustained campaign including industrial action.

Scottish FE college staff in administration, admissions, funding, catering, cleaning, welfare and security, as well as teaching assistants, will now receive a £450 flat rate rise for 2016-17, backdated to April 2016.

This follows a months-long campaign, including strike days and action short of a strike, which culminated in a negotiating meeting on 8 December at which the employers’ association, Colleges Scotland, accepted that staff deserved the same flat-rate increase as their lecturer colleagues.

The support staff had rejected the employers’ first offer of £230 a year – just over half the £450 awarded to teaching staff.

The agreement reached also includes consolidation of a previous £100 payment from April 2017. That will bring the total increase for the 2016-17 pay round to £550 for all further education employees in Scotland.

UNISON Scottish organiser John Gallacher praised UNISON’s members in Scotland’s FE colleges, who “have stood together and stood strong”.

“We are delighted that the employers have finally negotiated a pay offer that is fair for all hard-working college employees,” he added.

Following two days of strike action in September,talks at ACAS, then directly with the employers on 7 December had seen no resolution after two days of strike and on 22 November members voted by 89% to 11% in a ballot to reject the most recent offer.

Shirley Sephton, vice chair of UNISON Scotland’s education committee said: “This strike has always been about equality of pay and terms and conditions. “The employers’ last offer rewarded the high earners and not the lower-paid support staff – the majority of whom would receive no more than the previous offer.”

Chris Greenshields, chair of UNISON Scotland’s FE committee said: “Support staff are the backbone of Scotland’s colleges and don’t deserve to be treated as second-class citizens.”