UNISON members across 20 Scottish further education colleges have voted overwhelmingly to strike in support of fair pay.
The result of the ballot was announced today (Wednesday) and will cause disruption to 20 colleges when they resume courses at the end of the month. This includes the new flagship City College which opens its doors to students for the first time on September 5.
The dispute is the result of college bosses awarding lecturing staff a £450 flat rate rise, while some college support staff were only offered a flat rate of £230. College support staff (administration, admissions, funding, catering, cleaning, advisors, security, classroom assistants, technicians and others) are calling for fair pay and parity with their lecturing colleagues.
UNISON will take part in national negotiations later this month (August 25), but if bosses fail to deliver a fair deal then strikes look unavoidable.
Chris Greenshields, chairman of UNISON’s 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 chair of UNISON’s 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. High student dropout rates recently reported will not be helped by alienating key support staff.”
John Gallacher, UNISON’s Scottish organiser, 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 country’s 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.”