1. Why are we balloting on pay?
  2. What is the offer worth to me?
  3. What is the current rate of inflation?
  4. What is the difference between a consolidated and a non-consolidated pay offer?
  5. What have we done about it?
  6. What do the Employers say?
  7. What about the Government?
  8. Which colleges in Scotland are being balloted in this statutory ballot?
  9. Will this ballot lead to strike action? How many days will we be on strike for?
  10. Will we get strike pay if we do eventually go on strike?
  11. Do I have to go on strike?
  12. Do I need to confirm or tell the college that I will go on strike?
  13. Will the EIS give my name for strike action to the College – if strike action begins?
  14. Does the strike interrupt my continuity of service?
  15. What would I do on a strike day?
  16. What if I’m sick or otherwise on leave on any strike day?
  17. How long would a strike last?
  18. Would non-lecturing EIS members be on strike too?
  19. Could new EIS members be on strike too?
  20. Would support staff be on strike too?
  21. What about students?
  22. Could I be exempted from strike action?
  23. I am pregnant - would I qualify for an exemption/how does strike affect my pay?
  24. Is a strike a breach of contract and could I be dismissed by taking part?
  25. Can the sector afford the deal?
  26. Does the resulting boycott extend to not recording predicted grades for N5/Highers with SQA?

1. Why are we balloting on pay?

EIS-FELA has been in dispute since December 2017 over a failure to agree a cost of living pay rise. The original pay claim for 2017/18 was submitted in December 2016 and despite a lengthy delay in receiving any response from Management, we continued to demonstrate a willingness to negotiate throughout the dispute resolution process and were even willing to consider a multi-year deal covering the years 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/10. 

Management's pay offer consists of a 2.5% consolidated pay increase over three years (to be paid from April 2019) with only unconsolidated payments in 2017 and 2018, for some (but not all) members. Crucially, the offer of £600 for 2017 and £1, 000 for 2018 is linked to the harmonisation uplift - whatever you received as part of the harmonisation uplift will be deducted from these figures. If you received more than £600 in 2017 and £1, 000 in 2018 through the harmonisation process, you will receive nothing further by way of cost of living pay rise for these years.  

This dispute is about a cost of living pay increase and ensuring that lecturers' pay keeps up with inflation. Delivering equal pay in FE does not reflect the rising cost of living. The campaign for equal pay was never intended to result in a pay freeze. The current offer of a 2.5% increase over three years will result in a real terms pay cut and imposes a pay cap on Scottish FE lecturers at a time when the Scottish Government is lifting the cap for the rest of the public sector.

 

2. What is the offer worth to me?

Because Management has linked the 2017 and 2018 payments to harmonisation, the impact of the offer will differ from college to college and even within colleges, from pay point to pay point. Full details of what the offer means for you have been sent to your Branch Secretary and we would advise you to contact them or access the EIS website for further information about the offer and its impact in your college. 

 

3. What is the current rate of inflation?

As of October 2018, RPI is sitting at 3.3%.

 

4. What is the difference between a consolidated and a non-consolidated pay offer?

An unconsolidated offer is a one-off payment, paid as a lump sum or over a year. It will not have any impact on your basic salary which will remain at the rate it was before the payment was made with no guarantee it will rise any further. So, an employee on £36,000, who receives a non-consolidated rise of £100, will receive the £100 once but the salary will remain at £36,000.

A consolidated offer is a salary increase. So, in the example given above, if the £100 was consolidated, the salary would increase to £36,100 for that year and would be the baseline for the subsequent year's pay negotiations.

The payments proposed in the Management offer for 2017 and 2018 are unconsolidated – one off payments. The only consolidated element of this offer which will actually have an impact on members' salaries is the 2.5% in the final year and that is well below the rate of inflation and amounts to a real terms pay cut!

 

5. What have we done about it?

We have sought on a number of occasions to engage management in meaningful negotiations. In an effort to move negotiations forward, we recently invited Management to make an adjusted offer based on public sector pay policy – acknowledging that this was the approach taken with the Support Staff. Despite these attempts, Management has steadfastly refused to enter into meaningful negotiations, conflating equal pay with a cost of living pay rise.

 

6. What do the Employers say?

Management has refused to negotiate (the last meeting lasted 27 minutes and consisted of them reading out a prepared statement). Since April, they have stuck to their 'final offer' for lecturing staff – despite reaching an agreement with the support staff unions which offers a cost of living pay rise based on public sector pay policy separate and is distinct from any agreements on pay harmonisation.

 

7. What about the Government?

We met John Swinney, Depute First Minister and Richard Lochhead, the new Minister for Further and Higher Education in October 2018. Their position at present is similar to that they adopted in 2016 and 2017 – that national bargaining is between the trade unions and the Employer's Association and not a matter for the government. This is not particularly helpful, but it is consistent with their previous positions (which changed as strike action progressed in 2017). The government has reiterated its commitment to the principle of national bargaining for the sector.

 

8. Which colleges in Scotland are being balloted in this statutory ballot? 

All of the colleges that are signatories to the NRPA (National Recognition & Procedure Agreement) are being balloted for industrial action. 21 of the 26 colleges in Scotland have now signed up to national bargaining, and the remaining five (Orkney, Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Argyll, West Highland and Newbattle Abbey) have shadowed the outcomes of national bargaining. We continue to push for ALL colleges to become signatories to national bargaining.

 

9. Will this ballot lead to strike action? How many days will we be on strike for?

Yes, if members vote in favour of strike action and we meet the thresholds imposed by the Trade Union Act (i.e. 50% of eligible members use their vote) then we will proceed to strike action. The first day of strike action would be in January 2018 and would escalate over the academic year as required and as is outlined in your ballot paper. At this stage we cannot say how many days will be needed, but the stronger the strike, the greater the likelihood that it will be resolved quickly.

 

10. Will we get strike pay if we do eventually go on strike?

The EIS does not pay strike pay to members in a national industrial action. Members engaged in strike action who have suffered hardship as a result of being disproportionally affected by the strike programme may apply to a hardship fund for financial support.

 

11. Do I have to go on strike?

We would urge you to participate in collective, national industrial action – if there is a result in favour of strike action from the current statutory ballot of the membership.

EIS FELA has fought long and hard to regain national bargaining and to win equal pay for lecturers across Scotland. We need to defend what we have won, and we believe lecturers deserve a cost of living pay rise similar to the rest of the public sector.

A successful resolution to the current dispute will ensure that we continue to bargain and negotiate our pay and working conditions – rather than have them imposed on us. The more effective any strike action taken, the more quickly the dispute will be resolved in the interests of EIS members and our students.

 

12. Do I need to confirm or tell the college that I will go on strike?

No, the EIS has already provided the legal notice of strike action. There is no need for any individual to do anything.

 

13. Will the EIS give my name for strike action to the College – if strike action begins?

No, the EIS is only required to give the number of members per workplace in the dispute. We have done this.

 

14. Does the strike interrupt my continuity of service?

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.

 

15. What would I do on a strike day?

Your branch would organise picket lines at the entrances for each campus, and reps would 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.

Above all, we would ask that you do not undertake any work on a strike day. This means not attending work or taking classes, but also covers answering emails, marking, working from home etc.

 

16. What if I’m sick or otherwise on leave on any strike day?

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.

 

17. How long would a strike last?

The stronger the action the shorter the strike will be. The industrial action is for one day initially in January and will escalate over the remainder of the academic year, if necessary, as outlined in the ballot paper.

We will continue to meet with Management until a resolution is reached. Your support for the strike strengthens our hand in negotiations!

 

18. Would non-lecturing EIS members be on strike too?

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.

 

19. Could new EIS members be on strike too?

Yes – if they become members before the start of a strike day then they can participate.

 

20. Would support staff be on strike too?

No - our dispute only affects teaching staff, and only EIS members have been balloted for industrial action.

 

21. What about students?

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 would 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.

 

22. Could I be exempted from strike action?

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.

 

23. I am pregnant - would I qualify for an exemption/how does strike affect my pay?

As was highlighted in the FAQs published previously in relation to this dispute, taking industrial action - whether in the form of strike action or as action short of a strike – can have an impact on the calculation of maternity pay.  This should only affect a small number of employees.  However, to ensure that no member is disadvantaged as a result of the action, exemptions will be given to those members who are pregnant and have an Expected Week of Childbirth between 11 August 2019 and 8 December 2019.  If you fall within this category, please contact EIS HQ to request such an exemption

 

24. Is a strike a breach of contract and could I be dismissed by taking part?

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:

  • It's called as a result of a properly organised ballot
  • It's about a trade dispute between workers and their employer (eg about your terms and conditions)
  • A detailed notice about the industrial action (which is legally required) has been given to the employer at least 7 days before it begins

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.

 

25. Can the sector afford the deal?

We believe the sector can afford a cost of living pay rise. Had national bargaining not taken effect, colleges would have expected to award at least an award in line with public sector pay policy under local bargaining, and while some colleges have had a significant outlay to deliver pay harmonisation and new national T&C, the Scottish Government has recognised this and funded those colleges (mainly smaller, rural colleges) accordingly. At many larger colleges pay harmonisation and changes to T&C have had little or no impact on their budget.

The Management Side has said that there is no money, yet reports show that in 2017 £50 million was held in Arms Length Foundations, with £3.4 million being transferred from colleges to ALFs in 2016-17 and the Scottish Government was recently reported as sending nearly £500 million into reserves from the Budget underspend.

Colleges have continued to award cost of living rises to their senior management teams in line with public sector pay policy, and they have agreed an award for support staff which distinguishes a cost of living rise from pay harmonisation – we are asking for the same treatment!

 

26. Does the resulting boycott extend to not recording predicted grades for N5/Highers with SQA?

No, the resulting boycott does not extend to the recording of predicted grades for N5/Highers.  Predicted grades are not ‘results’ and are not entered into the college resulting system.  They are sent directly to the SQA.  This action does not, therefore, come within the scope of this action.