Colleges Scotland has expressed its exasperation with the EIS-FELA, suggesting that it has repeatedly refused to engage in meaningful negotiations or offer to make any concessions in return for being offered more pay. This is not a description we recognise and believe the facts speak for themselves.
We have tried for over two years to engage management in meaningful negotiation. We altered our claim in an effort to resolve the dispute, prior to the first day of strike action. This amended claim was based on public sector pay policy and was similar to the settlement which Colleges Scotland agreed for college support staff. Management rejected this claim.
We asked to meet in advance of the first day of strike action. They refused. We moved again, making an amended proposal and offered to settle for less than a quarter of our original claim. We even offered to postpone the second day of strike action if they recommended the proposal to their Executive. They refused.
We offered to suspend Wednesday's strike action if management moved money earmarked for the period from April to August 2020 (an additional £2.5m) into the three-year period covered by this dispute. Management refused. We have moved repeatedly – they have failed to move in the real terms value of their offer. They may have made different offers but have yet to make an improved offer for our members.
Instead of engaging with our offer to suspend strike action on 6th March and work with us to find a resolution to this pay dispute, Colleges Scotland chose to introduce new items for negotiation – matters related to terms and conditions which have not been the subject of discussion as part of these two year pay negotiations and some of which already form part of existing agreements.
If Colleges Scotland was serious in its commitment to resolve this dispute and prevent further strike action, then it would not be introducing such eleventh-hour proposals.
Colleges Scotland's press release, issued yesterday, continues to perpetuate the conflation of equal pay with a cost of living pay rise. Many college lecturers gained nothing or very little through the harmonisation process. Those who have received an increase through harmonisation had been significantly underpaid for a number of years.
Having won equal pay, lecturers should not now be penalised by not having what other public sector workers have i.e. a cost of living pay rise. No one would suggest that the women who have secured equal pay at the City of Glasgow Council should not be entitled to a cost of living pay rise.
Colleges Scotland reference 'excellent pensions' for lecturers, attributing this to a 'deal agreed in May 2017'. Pensions form no part of any agreements reached in relation to national bargaining and to suggest that this is the case is, at best, misleading.
EIS-FELA is not demanding the same deal which Colleges Scotland agreed with support staff and never has done. We highlighted that our revised claim was based on public sector pay policy and drew similarities with the support staff settlement on pay. Historically, there has been parity of funding in relation to the cost of these claims.
Our current proposal is less than half of that offered to support staff but Colleges Scotland deems our claim as 'unaffordable' whilst the settlement with support staff is 'affordable'.
Colleges Scotland has suggested that in extending the period of the deal, they are increasing the financial envelope and meeting EIS-FELA half way. This makes no sense. The proposal which EIS-FELA made in early February 2019 would cost £13.9m over three years.
If the period of the offer was extended, then the cost of the offer would increase also. Colleges Scotland has crucially not improved the real terms value of the offer for our members. They refer to a £65.8m package but the basis upon which this calculation has been costed is, in our view, highly questionable.