The 2019 FELA Annual Conference was held in Perth on 15 March.
Delegates from colleges across Scotland debated a range of Motions on issues such as fair pay, recruitment, National Bargaining, workload and FE funding.
Speakers at the Annual Conference included EIS-FELA President Pam Currie, EIS-FELA Vice President Charlie Montgomery, General Secretary Larry Flanagan, EIS President Alison Thornton and Aamer Anwar.
That this annual conference welcomes Shetland College to national bargaining and condemns the Employers Association’s delay in forcing the college to wait for over a year to sign the nRPA. This conference resolves to lobby the Scottish Government to ensure that the five remaining non-nRPA colleges – Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Newbattle Abbey, West Highland, Argyll and Orkney Colleges – sign up within the next year. This conference further resolves to arrange meetings in these colleges to build EIS branches, pursue formal recognition agreements where these do not exist, and demand that they formally sign the nRPA.
That this annual conference notes the improved TQFE arrangements delivered through the November 2017 National Agreement and the contractual requirement that “any lecturer commencing employment on or after 1 April 2019 and who does not hold a recognised lecturing qualification, has to successfully complete such a qualification within two years of taking up a position in any Scottish FE college, subject to local operational requirements.”. However, this annual conference notes with concern the significant TQFE waiting lists in many colleges and resolves that the FELA Executive:
• works to ensure that colleges honour the commitment made in NJNC Circular 03/18 that: ‘Colleges will facilitate opportunities for lecturers not holding a recognised lecturing qualification to complete such a qualification within 2 years of commencing employment’;
• investigates issues surrounding access to TQFE courses for all lecturers across the sector;
• investigates issues of capacity across the university sector for delivery of the above provision;
• seeks to meet with GTCS and relevant TQFE providers to discuss capacity for TQFE delivery, entry requirements and the role of SQA qualifications such as PDA awards;
• initiates a campaign to highlight the need for extra funding to be provided to support funded TQFE places for those working in the sector, in recognition of maintaining a highly qualified workforce;
• raises this matter at the NJNC to seek measures to increase the numbers of lecturers accessing TQFE within two years’ of commencing employment; and
• provides clear guidance to branch officials and area officers in order that they can fully support members on this issue.
That this annual conference notes the continued use of non-teaching staff in curriculum delivery in a number of colleges across Scotland. This annual conference reiterates its view that curriculum delivery is a lecturer role and that all staff with class contact as set out in the May and November 2017 NJNC Agreements should be on lecturer contracts for this element of their role and remunerated as such. Conference resolves to write to branch secretaries reminding them of this EIS-FELA policy and the clear distinction between support staff and academic staff and instructs local EIS-FELA branch officials to lodge an immediate collective grievance on behalf of the branch should management continue to diminish the professional standing of lecturer terms and conditions. This annual conference also instructs the EIS FELA Executive to consider measures to seek to incorporate its position on this matter into the scope of national bargaining.
That this annual conference resolves to develop national guidelines for maximum class sizes in line with those used in the secondary school sector, and to table these guidelines as a matter for negotiation at the NJNC.
That this annual conference notes the importance of effective interviewing and recruitment of learners and the role of lecturing staff in recruitment in programmes, particularly where specialist input is required.
To seek a national agreement on interview and recruitment processes (to include auditions and associated interview preparation/assessment) for teaching staff where they are involved in the interview and recruitment process.
That this annual conference notes that implementation of National Bargaining temp-permanency takes effect from 1 April 2019. It requests that FELA Executive closely monitor the implementation and understanding of this legally binding document, liaising with and acting alongside the Branch Secretary of any colleges which seek to take a different interpretation of permanising lecturing staff.
That this annual conference reaffirms the long-standing EIS-FELA policy of opposition to any involvement in job evaluation schemes at national or local level. Conference requests EIS Branch Officials to remind members of this policy, offering support to any member opposing and resisting any form of job evaluation, appraisal, lecturer rating or similar schemes. Conference also instructs EIS branch officials to lodge an immediate collective grievance on behalf of a branch should any member be subject to investigation or disciplinary action as a result of supporting this position.
That this annual conference notes that lecturers in FE in Scotland should be required to register with a GTCS from 1 April 2019.
This conference instructs the FELA National Executive to:
• Provide clear guidance to members on pathways to GTCS registration. • Provide clear guidance to branch officials and area officers in order that they can fully support members on this issue.
That this annual conference calls for a campaign to separate automatic linking of sickness absence and disciplinary matters, and to remove all reference to trigger points that would automatically hasten a disciplinary for sickness absence.
That this Annual Conference Notes:
The award of a Scottish Prison Service (SPS) education contract to a single College.The change in programme offered as part of the contract, with a move towards “project based learning” and a reduction in higher levels of course.The reduction in the number of College Lecturers required to implement the new contract.Cost and technical merit were the two major factors cited in the award of the contract
That this Annual Conference Believes:
That access to education is essential for a healthy economy.That access to education is an important factor in reduction of reoffending.Reduction of level of courses and reduction of Lecturer posts reduces access to education.Those performing the duties of Lecturer should be recognised as such and paid as such.
That this Annual Conference resolves:
To campaign for enhanced education opportunities to be provided in future contracts.
That this Annual Conference directs:
The National Executive to ensure that all branches have full details on the Nationally agreed description of a Lecturer, when available.
Salries and Condition of Services
That this annual conference calls upon local EIS-FELA branch negotiators to remind college management to take account of the Part-Time Workers’ Regulations, in order that part-time lecturers receive the choice of participation with other lecturers for training / meetings / in-service days / student catch-up time / other lecturer duties as designated to full time lecturers, providing full additional payment.
Education and Equalities
That this annual conference notes the growing number of students experiencing mental health problems during their programmes, and the small number of Scottish colleges with access to professional counselling services. Conference resolves to undertake a Freedom of Information request to establish for each college:
• the number of counsellor hours’ available to learners• the availability of counselling services on each campus (where applicable)• the form of counselling provision i.e. employed by the college, employed by an external agency, student placements or volunteers.
This annual conference recognises the pressure on lecturing (and support) staff in dealing with student mental wellbeing issues and further resolves to use the information gathered to highlight the disparity in access to counselling services between university and college students in Scotland, the inadequacy of these services across both sectors and to campaign for additional funding, resources and time to ensure these issues can be properly supported in our colleges, leading to improved provision and greater use of mental health awareness support staff in all Scottish colleges.
That this annual conference notes with concern the increased use and misuse of attendance management systems. Conference believes that such systems actively discriminate against older teaching staff and those with chronic health conditions and disabilities. Conference resolves to review current EIS guidance on attendance management systems and to write to Branch Secretaries with updated guidance as required.
That this annual conference resolves that curriculum planning and development at both college and regional level should be evidence based and involve lecturers at every stage. Conference instructs the EIS to write to branch secretaries to gather cross-college evidence of concerns regarding curriculum planning and to use this information to write to Principals and Chairs (including Regional Chairs) to highlight these concerns.
That this annual conference notes the significant use of school college partnerships across the curriculum and the increased use to pupils in S3/S4 and below. Conference requests that the Executive work with branches and Local Associations to establish:1. The scale and extent of college delivery to pupils under 16 years of age2. Lecturer and teacher views on the value, relevance and appropriateness of schools’ provision 3. Successful articulation from schools’ provision to full time college study and/or employment4. Measures in place to support young people in choosing and sustaining college programmesConference further requests that the Executive use this information to highlight potential concerns with school-college provision and to develop national guidance for lecturers teaching children under the age of 16.
That this annual conference welcomes the Scottish Government’s decision to increase the Further and Higher Education bursary for care experienced young people and to remove the disparity between FE and HE awards.Conference notes with concern media reports suggesting that a number of local authorities have chosen to offset this award against other monies that these young people are entitled to, with the risk that young people will drop out of education and face financial hardship.Conference resolves to highlight the issues affecting care experienced young people and to support campaigns to protect this bursary payment.
That this annual conference seeks to advertise and highlight the need for equality reps in each FELA Branch, in recognition of the essential role they play within the Branch in engaging and supporting members in equalities issues and taking forward the equality agenda.
That this annual conference considers that the educational validity of FE qualifications is being put at risk by the inordinate prioritising of ‘Key Performance Indicators’ (KPIs). In particular, Conference believes that staff could feel pressurised into passing students who do not actually meet the necessary criteria. As well as risking the educational validity of qualifications, this practice would also be inherently unfair to students. Conference calls for a meeting between the Government, SQA and EIS-FELA reps to discuss our concerns on this matter and to seek appropriate intervention to safeguard against the possible impact of such practices.
That this annual conference calls on colleges to make available de-escalation training for lecturing staff so that they are better able to handle situations where there is a potential for violent or aggressive behaviour against them.
That this annual conference believes that both college and regional boards are failing to ensure that colleges are run in a manner that befits the needs of both staff and students in the 21st century. This annual conference further believes that current systems for ensuring accountability of college management teams and good governance are not fit for purpose. That this annual conference calls for a review body, which includes trade union representation, to be set up to examine current practices in relation to accountability and good governance, to consider alternatives to the current approaches and to call on the Scottish Government to create a mechanism to ensure that all colleges in Scotland are subject to full public scrutiny and accountability.
That this annual conference agrees that to improve members engagement with the work of the EIS FELA a Video Conference option should be available for all committee meetings, briefing sessions and short training events at both the Edinburgh and Glasgow Offices.
That this annual conference is concerned that public funds, originally intended for the provision of Further Education have been deposited in Arms Length Foundations (ALFs), only later to be used to finance severance payments within the sector. Conference calls for the government to investigate how ALFs have been used to hoard public funds intended for FE provision and also, how those funds have subsequently been used particularly in relation to funding severances and/or cuts within the sector.Conference further calls for a moratorium on funds being deposited in ALFs until the completion of this investigation and a decision on the suitability of ALFs as a method for holding and distributing public finances within FE is made.
That this annual conference calls on FELA branch secretaries to seek a ban of the sale of so-called ‘energy’ drinks which are high in sugar, caffeine and chemicals from FE colleges.
That this annual conference notes that any creation of an unincorporated body for any new merged college, would effectively result in the delivery of FE by a private company. Any unincorporated college would not be a public body and therefore would not have the same level of accountability to the Scottish Parliament, the public, students or college employees.This conference therefore calls on the EIS FELA Executive to confirm their opposition to any college in Scotland being unincorporated.
That this annual conference notes:
· That for a number of years, with the support of the Scottish Government, the STUC has run a programme called ‘Unions into Schools.’ · That this programme involves union members, with the support and invitation of teachers, going into High schools across Scotland to educate students about the role of trade unions, about workers’ rights, and about organising.· That there is no such programme, currently, called ‘Unions into Colleges’That this Annual Conference believes:· Given that the FE sector is preparing students to become workers in many fields that remain among the most exploited by employers, it should be part of their FE journey to become educated about their rights.· That FELA members could and should have an important role to play in developing and delivering ‘Unions into Colleges’ across Scotland.That this Annual Conference resolves:· To work with EIS-FELA colleagues to develop the materials and delivery network necessary to bring ‘Unions into Colleges’ to FE students in Scotland.· Further, to work with Student Associations to achieve this.That this Annual Conference directs:· The National Executive to commit to planning, developing and executing a programme which will deliver ‘Unions into Colleges’ material consistently into FE colleges: the educational sector in which awareness of workers’ rights is most vital.
That this Annual Conference Notes: Funding to the College sector has been reducing for some years. The funding to the College sector is still being reduced. Extra funding to accommodate harmonisation is being reduced. Colleges face increasing costs due to inflation. Changes in the national skill base due to economic circumstance and changes in migration.
That this Annual Conference:
The Colleges provide a way of providing well educated and skilled personnel for the future, and may be the only route available for a large number of occupations. Continued reductions in funding damage the ability of Colleges to address skill set shortfalls.
Continued reductions in funding are already resulting in course closures, reductions in class contact for remaining classes and added stresses for Lecturers Reductions in funding will result in job losses in the Colleges.
That the state of education is near crisis point.
To campaign for funding to be put in place to properly support the education system.”
That this annual conference instructs the FELA Executive to immediately conduct research into the allocation of funding for education to agencies and/or organisations other than publicly funded educational establishments, to identify the impact on funding for colleges and report back to the FELA Executive.
This branch of EIS FELA are astonished at the current abrasive attitude of Colleges Scotland to the right of a recognised trade union to demand a cost of living pay rise. The way in which they have conflated the issue of harmonisation and our current cost of living pay claim is at best disingenuous. The recent meetings and attitude of Colleges Scotland towards the EIS have done nothing to show that they are willing to negotiate or recognise the negative effect they are having on the profession.There are current Principles of colleges attempting to run through anti-union publicity and attempting to pitch a wedge between our sister trade unions and the EIS.With this in mind this branch has carried a vote of no confidence in Colleges Scotland as an organisation which is having a negative and detrimental effect on the industry. This with a view to be taken forward to the EIS FELA Executive for debate.