EIS condemns aggressive and intimidatory anti-union tactics at NESCol

Created on: 05 Jul 2023 | Last modified: 09 Nov 2023

The EIS has condemned the systematic threatening and intimidatory behaviour of North East Scotland College as it has sought to undermine and frustrate lawful industrial action short of strike at the college, and has launched a trade dispute to address these concerns.  

NESCol is a public body; an arm’s length body of the Scottish Government and its employees are public servants.

Members of the EIS-Further Education Lecturers Association (EIS-FELA) have been carrying out industrial action short of strike action (ASOS) in pursuit of the pay claim for 2022-23, during this period of high inflation. Members at NESCol were sent formal notification on Tuesday 27th June of NESCol’s intent to ‘withhold 100% of wages, for each member engaged in industrial action short of strike (ASOS), in the form of a results boycott, each day for the remainder of the academic year’.

On Monday 3rd July, individuals were informed that they would be deemed for carrying out ASOS. The threats to deem were accompanied by other threatening and intimidatory behaviours that persuaded some members to stop carrying out ASOS. For example, in writing to members, the college misleadingly advised members at NESCol that carrying out ASOS was equivalent to strike action and questioned the legitimacy of the industrial action taken.

It is the EIS’s understanding that that is the first occasion in the public sector that an arm’s length body of the Scottish Government has deducted the salaries of public servants to undermine and frustrate members carrying out lawful industrial action short of strike.

Commenting, EIS Assistant Secretary, Anne Keenan, stated, “In a letter this week, NESCol Principal Neil Cowie made clear the intent of the management of this college to frustrate and undermine legitimate industrial action short of strike, being taken by members of the EIS-FELA at this public body. This is an unnecessary escalation of a national dispute and a blatant attack on trade union activity, as well as an example of disrespectful and aggressive treatment of employees. NESCol has crossed a line which we believe no other public sector institution has done in Scotland by intimidating workers, including by seeking to dock the pay of those engaged in lawful industrial action short of strike.”

She continued, “The Scottish Government have continually made clear their expectations that fair work principles should be embedded throughout Scotland. And has also made it clear that it supports workers’ exercising their right to take industrial action – and yet NESCol in taking this step, has exposed a culture within the sector that prioritises control over staff rather than collegiality and cooperation, and seeks to undermine the role of trade unions, worker voice and industrial action.

“The EIS will seek to defend its members at NESCol robustly and has lodged a trade dispute locally, seeking assurances that there will be no salary deductions and calling for effective ‘Dignity at Work’ policy and procedures for staff to work without intimidation. The EIS will also pursue all legal avenues in relation to any unlawful deductions of wages.

“In NESCol, or indeed any college, when our members are threatened or intimidated, we will act.”