LECTURERS at Fife College were on the picket lines last Thursday after taking strike action in a dispute over the replacement of lecturers with poorer-paid, lower qualified staff.

It followed the cancellation of a planned strike the week before after a proposed agreement had been offered by Colleges Scotland.

However, in what the EIS Further Education Lecturers' Association described as a "remarkable" development, this solution was not approved by the organisation.

General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: "I have been involved in many negotiations over my years as a trade unionist, but rarely have I seen anything more bizarre than an employer failing to ratify an agreement largely based on its own proposals.

"Having shown good faith in suspending the strike action and ratifying the agreement, our EIS-FELA members are outraged at the duplicity displayed by Colleges Scotland.

"Lecturers do not want to strike but are taking a stand in defence of lecturing jobs and high standards of teaching across the Scottish Further Education sector."

A spokesperson for the Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association described the strike action as "extremely disappointing."

"The EIS-FELA is breeching national agreed protocols by taking unnecessary industrial action whilst meaningful discussions are still ongoing," they said.

“The strike action is taking place because the EIS-FELA has claimed colleges are trying to replace lecturer posts with less qualified and less well paid staff. This simply isn’t true.

“In our discussions, the EIS-FELA has agreed that there is no national plan to replace lecturers with other roles like tutors, assessors or instructors.

"We also both agree that all roles in colleges, whether they be lecturing or support staff, are valuable and that each role is distinct.

"There is one detail left on the table for discussion, and the employers want to make sure that the final agreement recognises the complex and professional nature of the job that lecturers do.

"Colleges also need to be confident that the solution doesn’t have a negative impact on support staff, because we have a duty of care to the whole workforce."

Local politician Alex Rowley, who joined college staff on the picket line, expressed concerns about the lecturers' plight.

“According to research by the TUC, one in 10 workers have been told to reapply for their jobs on worse terms since the lockdown in March 2020," he said.

“Lecturers do not want to strike but are taking a stand in defence of lecturing jobs and high standards of teaching across the Scottish Further Education sector. Given the need for skills and re-skilling I am urging the employers side to get back to the table

“I have written to the Further Education Minister and reminded him that the government have condemned such practices so it is strange that a government body such as Colleges Scotland would be engaging in such practices.

"We must stand united against fire and re-hire otherwise many more workers will suffer such a draconian attack on their pay and conditions."