Lecturers at Border College begin three-week period of strike action

Members of both the EIS and FELA union have been taking action short of strike since mid-February. Credit: ITV

Lecturers from Border College have begun their first day of a three-week period of strikes.

Members of the EIS (Educational Institute of Scotland) and FELA (Further Education Lecturers Association) are striking in a dispute relating to pay.

This period of strike action is in addition to a national day of strikes and six days of targeted strike action.

Commenting on the strike action, EIS-FELA President Anne-Marie Harley said: "Once again EIS-FELA members are being forced to take strike action in pursuit of a fair pay offer.

"It is a disgrace that in 2024 our members are living on 2021 wages, amidst the worst cost of living crisis in generations.

"We should have had this money in our payslips in September 2022. For many EIS FELA members, the amount of money tabled in the second and third years of the current offer falls below current public sector pay policy.

"The EIS-FELA does not accept that our members should be treated any differently to any other public sector workers and are simply seeking a fair pay offer which properly reflects the invaluable work that we do."

Ms Harley added: "Members have been informed that there will be cuts to services and courses for students, creating barriers and fewer learning opportunities for those students accessing college education.

"College principals have further added fuel to the fire by threatening to withhold pay from our lecturers who are taking part in action short of strike action.

"This is absolutely shameful and completely contradicts the Scottish Government's opposition to Westminster’s anti-trade union laws.

"However, despite these threats, our members remain absolutely united and resolute in our fight to secure a fair pay offer for all members."

In response a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “While the Scottish Government respects the right of trade unions to take industrial action, we remain concerned about the potential impacts this action will have on students. We expect colleges to put in place mitigations to minimise disruption.

“It is of course for the college unions and employers to negotiate pay, terms and conditions, not the Scottish Government. However, Ministers are encouraging both sides to come to a resolution and bring this action to a close.

“The Further Education Minister will continue to engage with both management and unions as they work to reach a settlement that is fair and affordable.”

Gavin Donoghue, CES (College Employers Scotland) Director, said: “Further strikes by the EIS-FELA will not, and cannot, lead to an improved pay offer from college employers, only more disruption for students.

“The £5,000 full and final pay offer is already at the limits of affordability for colleges, and is set against years of real-terms budget cuts and now a cash cut of over £32 million.

“Despite unprecedented financial pressures, colleges have put forward a substantial pay offer for lecturers which, if accepted by the EIS-FELA, would keep college lecturers in Scotland as the best paid in the whole UK.

“The EIS-FELA should put this offer to its members in a formal ballot, as it would deliver an 11.5% average pay increase for college lecturers from September, and give those at the start of the National Pay Scale a rise of 14.2%.

“The pay offer would also mean that the average college lecturer is almost £1,500 better off than they would be under Public Sector Pay Policy.

“Employers have also acknowledged the EIS-FELA’s concern about job security and have agreed in writing to the trade union’s suggested wording that any compulsory redundancies would not be directly related to the full and final pay offer.

“Colleges simply cannot offer to give what they do not have, especially when government funding is set to fall by nearly 5% in 2024/25. The Scottish Government has confirmed on a number of occasions that it will not fund a pay award in the college sector.

“We urge the EIS-FELA to cancel its industrial action and put the employers’ full and final pay offer to its members in a formal ballot.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...