Strikes ‘very likely’ for Scotland’s colleges, says UNISON

The second national strike of 2016 in the college sector looks set to begin as students enrol for autumn courses.
The second national strike of 2016 in the college sector looks set to begin as students enrol for autumn courses.

A second national strike of 2016 in the Scottish college sector looks set to kick off as students enrol for autumn courses.

Some 2,300 UNISON support staff members from Colleges - including administration, admissions, funding, catering, cleaning, advisors, security, classroom assistants, technicians and others - will commence strike action in early autumn on conclusion of a national ballot which reports in mid August.

The ballot has opened and will close at 10am on Monday, August 16. UNISON are recommending staff vote yes for strike action.

UNISON members are said to be furious that while lecturing staff have been awarded a £450 flat rate rise, college support staff were only offered a flat rate of £230. Unless national negotiations scheduled for August 25 produce a better deal, strikes look unavoidable, according to the trade union.

Lecturing staff in the sector were on strike during the pre-summer term leading to a pay settlement of £450 for that group of workers.

Chris Greenshields, Chair of UNISON Further Education Committee, said: “Our demand is simple and fair. Pay college support staff the same amount (£450) that you gave to our teaching colleagues. We work for the same colleges, help deliver the same courses, support the same students and deserve the same cost of living increase.”

Shirley Sephton, Vice Chairperson of UNISON further Education Committee, said: “The Colleges should use a small portion of the extra £8.1 million given to the sector this year to address operational pressures to resolve this dispute before things get worse.

“Recent surveys of our membership have shown real low morale in support staff. We have been through a difficult merger process and we can’t allow a two-tier system to develop.

“Unless we get a fair and equitable pay award it is a further kick in the teeth to overworked and underpaid college support staff.”

John Gallacher, Scottish Organiser UNISON, said: “Striking is a last resort, but we will support our members in every way possible to achieve the same fair and reasonable pay settlement as already paid out to teaching colleagues.

“There are huge pay and conditions discrepancies and unfairness across the 26 colleges. Different rates of pay for the same job, different holidays and more. The new national bargaining machinery needs to deliver and make progress and the 2016 pay settlement is a good place to start. The Scottish Government needs to give additional funding to this deprived sector as they promised in the last Scottish Parliament elections.”