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Moray UHI lecturers take to picket lines

By Hazel Lawson Local Democracy Reporter

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Lecturers took to the picket line yesterday at UHI Moray as part of a long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

On the picket lines yesterday.
On the picket lines yesterday.

Members of the EIS FELA union protested at the college’s main campus in Elgin on Thursday as part of a rolling campaign of strike action across Scotland.

UHI Moray is looking to cut 25 lecturers and 20 support staff as part of a restructuring programme.

And jobs will go across most departments with the exception of art, teacher training, performance arts and health and social care.

Core subjects including literacy and numeracy, hospitality and science will be hardest hit.

College Employers Scotland has put forward a 11.5% pay rise over a three-year period starting in 2022/23. And they say it is their final offer,

But EIS FELA believes it is lower than deals given to other public sector workers.

A statement from union representatives at the Elgin site said: “We’re fighting for the future of further education, for fair pay and to protect jobs.

“And we still don’t know what’s happening to the staff here.

“We’ve been told the Scottish Funding Council has approved the scheme for the voluntary severance package, but there’s no detail on the funding.

“There’s 25% of staff going to lose their jobs before the next academic year, and we still don’t know how that’s going to happen.

“We’re well into April and there are lecturers who are not going to be here after July. Imagine what that’s like.

“We’re going to lose hundreds of years of experience.

“And potential students are being put on waiting lists because we’ve no places for them.

“So young people are being denied opportunities.

“It’s very difficult to look people in the eye and tell them they’re not going to get a place at college.”

The statement also criticised governance in colleges as being “ineffectual and disengaged” at a time when principals are receiving “huge salaries”.

In addition there was condemnation of the Scottish Government for cutting £100 million form the sector.

Long-running dispute over pay and conditions.
Long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

James Hynam, who is the Labour candidate for the new constituency of Moray West, Nairn and Strathspey, and Moray councillor Sandy Keith (Elgin North, Labour) spoke to those on the picket line.

A former student at the college Mr Hynam said: “I’m worried as a father of two children. This is taking away opportunities for young people in the area.”

Union members have taken votes of no confidence in the senior leadership team and the board of management at UHI Moray.

Gavin Donoghue, the director of College Employers Scotland, called on the union to cancel its industrial action and ballot members on the final pay offer.

He said: “Further strikes by the EIS FELA will not, and cannot, lead to an improved pay offer from college employers, only more disruption for students.

“Despite unprecedented financial pressures, colleges have put forward a substantial pay offer for lecturers which … would keep college lecturers in Scotland as the best paid in the whole UK.

“EIS FELA should put this offer to its members in a formal ballot, as it would deliver an 11.5% average pay increase for college lecturers from September, and give those at the start of the national pay scale a rise of 14.2%.

“Colleges simply cannot offer to give what they do not have, especially when government funding is set to fall by nearly 5% in 2024/25.”

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