Staff at colleges across the region will take part in strike action on Tuesday and Wednesday over claims lecturers could be replaced by less qualified alternatives.
Lecturers plan to walk out on Tuesday and Wednesday in the latest round of planned industrial action, which stems from claims retiring lecturers at Fife College were replaced with poorer paid, less qualified instructors.
Fife College lecturer and Fife EIS representative Lynn Davis said striking was the “last resort”, adding there was genuine fear among many lecturers they would be replaced as part of a cost-cutting exercise.
‘It’s an attack on our professionalism’
A colleague, who asked not to be named, said many were “horrified” by the alleged move to downgrade jobs.
“This is an attack on our professionalism and our professional standards,” they said.
“In my department we have lost four lecturers who were replaced by instructor assessors.
“If this is not an agenda to replace lecturers, I don’t know what is.”
EIS-FELA (Further Education Lecturers Association) say industrial action is “the only means now available to safeguard our jobs and the quality of further education.”
Staff at campuses across Tayside, Fife, Angus and Perthshire will be among those taking part in the national strike.
More walk-outs could follow
A further nine days of walk-outs could follow this month if an agreement is not found.
Lecturers will not be preparing classes, marking or responding to students or connecting to online teaching platforms.
Further action could include a boycott of assessments, which would rule out student graduations.
An agreement brokered on March 25 has since descended into chaos after EIS representatives accused Colleges Scotland of reneging on its own agreement after failing to ratify the deal.
‘Lecturing cannot be taken for granted’
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said members had “little option” but to continue with striking.
“The goodwill of the lecturing profession simply cannot be taken for granted by their employers,” he said.
Mr Flanagan added that the disruption could have been avoided and that it was “wholly regrettable” that students may be adversely impacted.
However, the Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association said the claim the lecturers were being substituted for assessors or instructors was “unfounded” and claimed industrial action was “completely unnecessary”.
“Colleges are working extremely hard to ensure students can achieve their qualifications this year despite the pandemic and it is disappointing that the EIS-FELA is choosing to take its members out on strike during this unprecedented time,” the spokesman added.
“There is only one outstanding issue still to be agreed. This is around the wording of a national role profile for lecturers, of which both sides are supportive.
“The employers’ view is that this is a holistic role profile.
“However, the EIS-FELA view is that just some of the core responsibilities are necessary to deem someone a lecturer.”
The Association said it would do all it could to support students and minimise disruption.