Teachers at a key FE college in west of Scotland begin ‘lengthy campaign’ of action over pay which is set to disrupt 3-way college merger

Tim Lezard

EIS Reid Kerr picketsDozens of lecturers at a college in Paisley (pictured) have begun strike action as part of a “lengthy campaign” in support of a pay claim.

Union representatives say they have been unable to persuade management to make any offer to staff at Reid Kerr College on pay, despite a pay increase of 1.2% being made at a sister college which is about to merge with Reid Kerr and another FE college in the west of Scotland.

On the picket line, EIS branch secretary John Kelly told UnionNews: “Zero percent is the pay offer that has been made to us. We feel that is unnacceptable.

“The component colleges that we are merging with both been offered salary increases. It seems mad that, come August, a third of [staff at] this new college is not going to be offered a pay rise.”

Teaching unions north of the border say the position of Reid Kerr staff is ‘symptomatic’ of a wider lack of investment in further education across Scotland.

Today’s strike is the first industrial action of its kind since the SNP government bowed to calls from education unions to re-finance the country’s college sector, after what they said was a ‘raid’ on further education grants to help fund the provision of free university tuition in Scotland.

Earlier this month, the Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney agreed to a £61m deal over three years to offset FE college cuts in previous budgets.

However, critics say overall cuts to the sector will still amount to nearly £50m a year.

The EIS is warning that sustained industrial action could threaten plans to merge Reid Kerr with two other colleges in the west of Scotland (Clydebank and James Watt College) under a Scottish government policy to slim down the number of FE institutions and college places north of the border.

EIS president Susan Quinn, who joined pickets this morning, said: “Cuts across the board have impacted not just on college lecturers’ salaries – which is part of why we are out here today – but also on the courses offered for the students and the number of lecturers’ positions, where we have seen a drop of 1,000 in the last year or so.

“The fact that we have had a 2-year pay freeze is something that has hit all the sectors that we represent and so we are happy to support our FE colleagues today.”

The college management has offered talks with union officials tomorrow, but refused to table a new pay offer ahead of today’s strike.

Despite submitting a pay claim in August 2012, staff at Reid Kerr remain one of the few groups of college lecturers which have not yet reached a settlement with the employers.


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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