College staff to strike over ‘unacceptable’ pay and job security

More than 2,000 college support staff are to strike later this month amid a row over wages and job security, a union has said.

Unison announced on Friday that librarians, IT specialists, administrators, cleaners, canteen workers and estate management staff at 21 Scottish colleges will walk out on Thursday February 29.

The union claimed staff have not had a wage rise in 18 months, branding the lack of an increase in pay “completely unacceptable”.

It said staff have still not received a wage increase that was due in September 2022.

It also wants colleges to guarantee pay rises will not come at the cost of redundancies.

Workers voted by 81% in December in favour of strike action to continue their fight for better pay and to protect jobs.

Unison Scotland’s further education branch secretary Chris Greenshields said: “College support staff deserve a fair pay rise without the threat of compulsory redundancies.

“Nobody wants to be on strike, but staff have been left with little choice.

“The union submitted a revised proposal to try and move things along back in December and it took college bosses two months to reject it.”

Collette Bradley, chairperson of Unison Scotland’s further education committee, added: “Further education in Scotland is in chaos. It’s time for ministers to step and get this dispute sorted.

“College staff have not had a pay rise for 18 months, which is completely unacceptable in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.

“Employees are simply demanding fair pay and no compulsory redundancies. If colleges want to avoid further disruption, they need to start taking those demands seriously.”

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “While operational decisions on pay and staffing matters are the responsibility of individual colleges, the Scottish government remains concerned by the impact this action will again have on students.

“We continue to urge employers and trade unions to make every effort to reach a settlement, that is both fair and affordable, with a view of bringing this industrial action to a close.”

A spokesperson for College Employers Scotland said it is “regrettable” that Unison decided to go ahead with the strike, stating it will “only add to the disruption already experienced by students last year”.

They said: “Unison has been offered a consolidated pay rise of £5,000 alongside other college support staff over three years.

“This is the employers’ full and final offer and remains on the table despite the exceptionally difficult financial circumstances facing colleges.

“If accepted, it would deliver an average pay rise of nearly 16% for support staff going back to September 2022, and 21.5% for support staff earning less than £25,000.

“Unite and GMB members have already voted overwhelmingly to accept the offer – but Unison members need to do the same before any additional money can be paid to college support staff.”

The spokesperson added: “Colleges are acutely aware of the financial pressures that staff are under. That is why they want to apply the proposed pay increase in the earliest possible pay period.

“We therefore urge Unison to cancel plans for another strike and ballot its members on the very substantial pay offer that is still on the table from employers.”

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