Further education support staff set to reject pay offer – and join lecturing staff across scotland in possible industrial action

Date: Wed 4 November 2015

Further Education support staff took a step closer today (4 November 2015) to industrial action across all Scottish Colleges (except Orkney and Shetland).

UNISON Further Education members are being balloted on a 2015 pay rise, which was due on 1 April 2015.

UNISON Scotland, the main union for the Sector, is recommending rejection of the employers 1% final offer. UNISON,  in common with the lecturers’ union EIS/ FELA, is angry at the lengthy delay in the whole pay negotiating progress and the conduct of the employers’ side in this first ever round of Scottish wide negotiations.

The final pay offer of a 1% consolidated pay award, with £300 flat rate for those earning under £21,000 replaces the previous risible offer of 1% unconsolidated pay award – the unconsolidated offer being a first in the Scottish public sector.

The offer falls well short of UNISON’s claim of £1000 for all which is fair, equitable and would have started to address the deep seated and longstanding pay variances across the 26 colleges. The final offer squeezes middle earners (between £21k and 30k) who will receive between £210 and £299 per annum extra.

Commenting, Chris Greenshields, UNISON Chairperson for Further Education said:
“This final offer is a slap in the face for FE support staff who have been working all hours to maintain college services for students in the face of job cuts and mergers. We have been arguing that all staff in the sector should receive the same flat rate pay rise. We want an end to the unfair system of percentage rises which if applied to all staff would see some Principals in line for a £1,400 pay-rise while some support staff will only get £210 to meet the cost of inflation. There has rightly been some recent scrutiny over the “them and us” culture which existed in Colleges in the past and this offer only serves to re-inforce that nothing has changed”.

John Gallacher, UNISON Scottish Organiser , added:
“UNISON Scotland is seeking an urgent meeting with Angela Constance, Education Minister, to discuss this crisis. Whilst the First Minister, with the great and the good, opens the new City College campus on the Clyde in Glasgow at an event which cost the sector thousands of pounds (with a lunch including guinea fowl), hard working Support Staff in Further Education are struggling to buy their weekly grocery shop in a sector that promotes reward through education and hard work, our members are being let down by College Principals and Boards”

Shirley Sephton, UNISON Vice-Chair for Further Education said
“It is not easy to provide support and assistance for thousands of students while all around you staff numbers are being cut and there is an expectation that services will be maintained. The least College staff deserve is a fair pay increase at the end of the year. Our members work under considerable pressure and deserve a decent pay rise for the first time in many years of pay cuts”

During the first half of November , and prior to the next negotiating
meeting on the 19th, UNISON will conduct and all members’ ballot to reject the offer and proceed to put sustained pressure on the sector to unlock its substantial ‘reserves’ and pay its workforce.

UNISON Contacts
John Gallacher Scottish Organiser 07904 342 426
Chris Greenshields, Chair of FE committee 07722 329 223
Danny Phillips, communications officer 07944 664 110


1. Support Workers include, admission staff, student support, librarians, instructors, receptionists, caterers, cleaners.

2. The main points of the final offer are:

  • £300 flat rate increase for those earning under £21,000
  • 1 % consolidated for those earning over £21000
    i.e.   £210 increase for a £21,000 salary
    £300 increase for a £30,000 salary
    £600 increase for a £60,000 salary
  • Living Wage payable to all directly employed staff from 1 April 2015 ( working to achieve Living Wage Accreditation for all colleges by December 2016)
  • 35 hour week for all support staff working in colleges where a National RPA has been signed and who currently work more than 35 hours per week, by 1 April 2016
  • Commitment to form a working group to map key priorities for a workforce modernisation programme. Management envisage this to address a national job evaluation scheme, a national pay and grading scale and national conditions of service.

3. FE Colleges hold an estimated £99million in so-called “ Arms Length Trusts”

4. UNISON is the biggest union in Scotland.