Pam Currie: We fought and won equal pay - now we won't accept being devalued

Pam Currie, EIS Fela President and lecturer at Glasgow Kelvin College, makes the case for the college lecturers as she explains why they were on strike today

FE LECTURERS across Scotland joined picket lines and took to the streets today [16 January] in pursuit of a cost of living pay rise. Strike action is not something that any trade unionist takes lightly, and for Scotland’s 5,000 FE lecturers, this was the third period of industrial action in three years. 

College lecturers have not had a cost of living pay rise since April 2016. During that time, college support staff have had pay rises in line with public sector pay policy, and incredibly, college principals and senior management – some of whom already earn more than the First Minister – have continued to award themselves pay rises on top of already inflated packages.

At our last meeting on 13 December, we submitted a revised pay claim in a final attempt to kickstart negotiations and avert strike action. Management have refused to meet for further negotiations on this claim, demonstrating their utter disregard both for teaching staff and for our students.

Colleges Scotland claim that lecturers have already been offered a “pay rise” of up to £20,000. This is a conflated, inflated and grossly misleading figure. 

In 2017 we took sustained strike action to win equal pay and harmonised terms and conditions for every lecturer in Scotland. This was a hard won campaign which ended years of inequality for FE lecturers, and which at its heart was a fight to defend the very existence of national bargaining in the face of opposition from Principals who had long seen local colleges as their personal empires.

By the nature of equal pay and harmonisation, some lecturers have had a pay uplift – not a pay rise, but recognition that they had been underpaid for years. Other lecturers – including lecturers at some of the largest colleges in Scotland – have had nothing.

READ MORE: “We are not greedy”: Striking college lecturers offer show of force outside Holyrood

Equal pay and the cost of living are two separate issues. They’re separate for college support staff, and they’re separate in other parts of the college sector. Management’s attempt to conflate them is a smoke and mirrors approach which has angered lecturers and further damaged the sector.

Management’s “final offer” on a cost of living rise from 2016 – 2019 is based on unconsolidated cash payments for years 1 and 2, which would vary according to an individual’s equal pay settlement. The actual pay rise on offer is 2.5% consolidated – less than 1 per cent a year for each of the three years.

We are clear that having fought for equal pay, we will not be devalued by a below-inflation pay rise that falls well below public sector pay policy. Our demand is simple – management must meet us now and sit down for meaningful negotiations.

Picture by CommonSpace

WHERE NEXT FOR BREXIT? CommonSpace Live Show Thursday 17 January 7pm, on Facebook