In March 2016, the EIS and Employers agreed a pay deal (the Agreement, the March NJNC Agreement) for all college lecturers (promoted & unpromoted). There are three key elements of the deal which the employers are now refusing to honour in full:
It should be noted that the Pay Agreement does not link pay with terms & conditions, they are separate elements with different implementation dates. In other words, the Agreement does not say that pay harmonisation will only take place if T&Cs are harmonised.
The EIS-FELA national bargaining team has been pressing the Employers to follow through on its promise ever since the deal was signed in March 2016. The Employers were slow to develop written proposals and sought to push meetings back.
As a result, key deadlines stated within the Agreement were missed although a ‘Roadmap’ was eventually agreed. Eventually, since the normal NJNC meetings were not working, the Employers agreed to form two short life working groups; one for pay, one for terms and conditions.
Both these groups met weekly for almost four months, and involved a huge amount of work. It was the EIS that pushed progress by submitting detailed proposals, that led to an agreed output on pay but little progress on key areas of terms and conditions but management continued to stall on the details.
The EIS told the Employers that agreement to deliver pay and terms & conditions needed to be made by the 9th February NJNC meeting, or it would issue a dispute as any further delay would make April 2017 harmonisation payments to lecturers impossible.
When the EIS deadline arrived on 9 February 2017, the Employers introduced a proposed different and ‘harder’ terms & conditions that they had discussed over the previous four months. They were unwilling to negotiate with us and thus the EIS lodged a dispute. The Employers called an adjournment and walked out.
We have been meeting with the Employers since then – but there is no progress being made. The Employers are refusing to pay the pay harmonisation tranche for April 2017 unless we agree to their T&Cs.
The Employers are seeking to fundamentally change the terms of the March 2016 Pay Agreement to their own advantage. In return for avoiding sustained strike action the Employers agreed the following key elements; modest cost of living increases for 2015-16 & 2016-17, a £40k salary for unpromoted lecturers with an agreed three year implementation timetable and to harmonise terms and conditions.
The Employer are now saying that they will only implement the agreed £40k if we agree a harmonised set of terms & conditions with worse conditions. Furthermore, they are saying that they need to increase teaching hours and flexibility in order to pay for the £40k salary that they have already agreed.
The Employers effective want the EIS to agree a set of T&Cs that are worse than the norm in the sector. They want a salary bar, fewer holidays, more class contact and new shorter salary conservation agreements. If agreed, over time these variables could effectively fund the Agreement itself – and increase workplace stress.
Our aim is very straightforward. We simply want the Employers to honour the deal that they agreed almost a year ago and give academic staff in Scotland’s colleges the equal pay and harmonised conditions of service that we deserve.
It is now clear, however, that Employers will not do this unless we exert pressure on them. For that reason EIS-FELA is holding an indicative ballot to test the readiness of the members to take industrial action.
The stronger the ‘YES’ vote and the bigger the turnout the more likely Employers will be compelled to honour the deal.
All of the colleges that have signed the NRPA – NESCol, Dundee & Angus, Fife, Forth Valley, Edinburgh, Borders, Ayrshire, Dumfries & Galloway, West College Scotland, West Lothian, Inverness, Perth, Lews Castle, New College Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Moray, Glasgow Kelvin, City of Glasgow and Glasgow Clyde Colleges.
Some colleges have not signed the NRPA – North Highland College, West Highland College, Argyll College, SMO, Newbattle Abbey, Orkney Is and Shetland Is.
The colleges on strike represent more than 90% of the EIS FELA members in Scotland.
Yes, as a statutory ballot for strike action is necessary to provide a mandate for strike action.
We have already shared our recent strong indicative ballot result with the Employers and that strike action is likely unless they address lecturers’ concerns. They have not budged. They are possibly using the impasse to get more money from the Government.
The EIS cannot pay strike pay to members in a national strike – it is simply unaffordable. However, a strike support fund has been established by the EIS.
We would urge you to participate in collective, national industrial action – as decided by a statutory ballot of the membership. We would prefer to limit the number of strike-breakers because it weakens the profession.
EIS FELA has fought long and hard to regain national bargaining, and this dispute is our chance to set the direction of future national bargaining.
A successful resolution to this strike will ensure that we bargain and negotiate our working conditions – rather than have them imposed on us. The more effective the strike action, the more quickly the dispute will be resolved in the interests of EIS members and our students.
No, the EIS has already provided the legal notice of strike action. There is no need for any individual to do anything.
No, the EIS is only required to give the number of members per workplace in the dispute. We have done this.
No. A strike will not create a gap in service and will not affect your legal right to permanency if you are on a fixed term or top up contract.
Your branch should be organising picket lines at the entrances for each campus, and reps will have rotas for picket line duty. We would encourage all members to take part in the picket line, even if you’re not able to do a full two hour stint.
The college may ask you for medical evidence for shorter sickness absences if these coincide with strike days.
If you are on maternity, paternity leave etc then you are not expected to participate in industrial action. If you are shortly planning to take maternity or other leave please contact your branch secretary for advice.
The stronger the action the shorter the strike will be. The industrial action is for one day initially, escalating to two and then three days a week.
We will continue to meet with management until a resolution is reached. Your support for the strike strengthens our hand in negotiations!
No - the national dispute only affects lecturing staff. In short, you should have been balloted for industrial action to participate – unless you are a new member.
Yes – if they become members before the start of a strike day then they can participate.
No - our dispute only affects teaching staff, and only EIS members have been balloted for industrial action.
Going on strike is always a last resort, and we know that any strike action impacts on our students. In the long-term, students benefit from the defence of education and professional standards that the EIS provides.
We would encourage branches to meet with student reps to discuss the strike and the reasons for it, and to ask for their support. We will also seek paid, additional contracts to allow staff if they wish, to ‘make up’ time lost through industrial action once the dispute has been concluded.
In exceptional circumstances a member may be exempted from strike action. If you seek an exemption then please contact Anita Stewart explaining the exceptional circumstances.
Occupational Maternity Pay is paid according to a pregnant worker’s average weekly wage in the 8 weeks preceding 15 weeks before the EWC. It is unclear whether employers will calculate maternity pay on notional or actual salary but to avoid doubt, exemption will be provided to those who have an EWC between 30 June and 25 August 2016.
To qualify for SMP and OMP a lecturer has to have 26 weeks continuous employment 15 weeks before her EWC. As set out above, a day on which an employee is on strike does not count in the period of continuous employment but does not break continuous employment.
This means that a small number of lecturers may be affected during the qualifying period. Therefore, exemption is also given to those who have 25, 26 or 27 (to avoid doubt) weeks continuous employment at the end of the week preceding 17 March 2016. (i.e. 25 weeks by 13 March 2016).
Those who do not have 25 weeks by then will not qualify.
Yes a strike is a breach of contract, and in return the employer does not (normally) pay you.
You can’t be dismissed for industrial action if:
You can claim unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal if you’re dismissed for taking industrial action at any time within the 12 weeks after the action began.
We believe the sector can afford pay harmonisation without detriment to our T&C. We know that there are millions of pounds still stashed in Arms Length Foundations (ALFs), enough to pay for the deal several times over.
And when management agreed the deal in March 2016, they produced a memo from a Scottish Government civil servant assuring the NJNC that the costs of harmonisation would be factored in to the Scottish public spending review.
In addition to this, we question whether some of the changes would actually save any money in any case. Cutting holidays doesn't save a penny, and could actually end up costing money in student support and the general overheads of having the college open on days when it would normally be closed.
Management agreed a deal on the basis of no detriment - they must honour that deal.