College workers vote overwhelmingly for strike action following ‘derisory’ pay offer

Scotland’s college staff have voted to take strike action, in a formal ballot, with 92% voting for action on a 62% turn out.

This ballot rejects a 2% pay offer and calls for action over the harmonisation of contracts and pay grades.

UNISON’s four-week ballot closed today (Thursday). The union’s further education branch will announce action shortly, which could have an impact on colleges right across Scotland.

The union says it expects college staff will start strike action before the summer, disrupting preparations for the next academic year.

UNISON represents learning support employees including librarians, IT specialists, technicians, administrative & business support staff, cleaners, canteen workers, and estate management staff in every college across the country.

The union says that strike action will send a strong message that a substantially increased pay offer and that a national system of pay and grading (with equal pay for roles of similar weighting across the college sector) is urgently needed, to avert action.

UNISON Scotland further education branch secretary Chris Greenshields said: “College staff have voted overwhelmingly for strike action. They’re calling on employers to get serious and sit down with UNISON to avoid a summer of discontent for the sector.

“The current 2% offer is derisory and does little to protect staff from cost-of-living increases. It’s over seven months since pay rises should have been in staff wage packets and the employers seem clueless about how to avoid yet another crisis in the sector.

“The Scottish government should stop sitting on its hands and sort out this mess. Taking strike action and disrupting plans for the new year is the last thing UNISON members want. But they have no choice, they simply cannot afford to go on like this. They will not accept this pay cut, it’s a shameful situation.”

UNISON Scotland further education branch chair Collette Bradley said: “Last September, after five years of working towards it, college employers revealed they would not support a nationally harmonised pay and grading system. They now want each college to set its own pay scales and grades.

“The Scottish government and Scottish Funding Council have put considerable money and resources into trying to harmonise jobs and pay. Employers have agreed to do this for lecturers, but not support staff. This has gone on for far too long.

“College staff have had enough and have voted to strike with a massive mandate. If a national pay and grading structure is not agreed, UNISON members will now take action.”

Notes to editors:
UNISON is the union for college support staff. We are Scotland’s public service union and the largest union in Scotland. Our 150,000 members work across public services – including education, local government, the NHS, police service, energy and water. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Colleges in the ballot where UNISON has a mandate to take strike action: Ayrshire College, Borders College, City of Glasgow College, Dumfries & Galloway College, Dundee & Angus College, Edinburgh College, Fife College, Forth Valley College, Glasgow Clyde College, Glasgow Kelvin College, New College Lanarkshire, Newbattle Abbey College, North East Scotland College, South Lanarkshire College, Univerity of Highlands and Islands (UHI) Argyll, UHI Inverness, UHI Moray, UHI North Highland, UHI Outer Hebrides, UHI Perth, UHI West Highland, West College Scotland, West Lothian College

The full result is: The trade dispute was over a failure to agree on pay, terms and conditions and the pay harmonisation element of the 2022/2023 claim for all workers whose pay, terms and conditions are determined by the National Joint Negotiating Committee (NJNC).
Ballot closed at: 10am on 13 April 2023. Results for industrial action in the form of strike action: Total number voting “Yes”: 92.55%, Total number voting “No”: 7.45%, Turnout: 62.43%

UNISON contact details:

Lorcan Mullen, UNISON Scotland regional organiser: 07903 853116

Danny Phillips, communications officer: 07717 715277 / 07944 664110 or