No holiday cheer in colleges as staff vote for more strikes, says UNISON.

Staff in colleges across Scotland are set to go on strike again in 2024 after they voted overwhelmingly for more action in a long running dispute over pay, job security and pay harmonisation.

This latest announcement comes after months of action by support staff in colleges this year.

UNISON re-balloted its members working in colleges, after the union said that college employers failed to properly negotiate with them to reach a settlement.

The union represents employees who are vital to college services and student support. They include librarians, IT specialists, technicians, administrative and business support staff, cleaners, canteen workers and estate management staff.

Staff, who are UNISON members, were re-balloted over past few weeks and voted overwhelmingly (81%) in favour of continuing industrial action. Strikes are now set to take place in colleges across Scotland next year unless a resolution can be found.

The unions say that college employers had made a three year pay offer. No funds were in place for the third year of the offer and employers said that jobs would be at risk unless the Scottish government guaranteed funding.

UNISON say that if there is no further movement from college employers or intervention from the Scottish government, the strikes will begin again in 2024.

UNISON Scotland further education branch secretary, Chris Greenshields said: “This ballot result shows our members feel very strongly about the appalling approach by college employers. College staff are facing a second Christmas in real financial hardship. Our members have been waiting 16 months for a pay rise in line with inflation, free from the ongoing threats to their jobs.

“UNISON is calling for employers to release last year’s pay rise to college staff immediately to alleviate hardship this winter and given the unforgiveable length of time this is taking.

We are also calling for the Scottish government minister to join talks with unions and the employers to bring this dispute to end.

Further education is surely the worst publicly funded sector in Scotland. We have had months of disputes and job insecurity, yet here we are again lurching towards more strikes in 2024. College staff are left with no choice but to use the ultimate sanction to get the fair pay and job security they deserve. The Scottish Government needs to do more.”

UNISON Scotland further education branch chair, Collette Bradley said: “The prospect of a three-year deal was suggested by the Scottish Government, most likely as a means of securing industrial peace in a sector that has been blighted with industrial action for around a decade.

No doubt, industrial peace in colleges would help the minister as we get nearer a Scottish election but staff need a guarantee that this will not affect their job security.

As it stands, our members have the worst of both worlds and are furious at below inflation pay offers and the prospect of being made compulsorily redundant to boot.

Pay has long since been settled for every other sector. It’s time the Scottish government pulled out all the stops if it is serious about the working class learners who depend on colleges and the vital role the sector plays in the Scottish economy.”

Notes to editors: 

– UNISON is the union for college support staff. It is Scotland’s public service union and the largest union in Scotland. 

– Ballot result : 81.1% in favour of strike action with a 59.3% turnout.

– Colleges where UNISON has a mandate to take strike action are: 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, UHI Argyll, UHI Inverness, UHI Moray, UHI North, West and Hebrides, UHI Perth, West College Scotland, West Lothian College