Threat of docking Fife College lecturers’ wages is not acceptable in pay dispute

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Anyone who happens to have passed Fife College’s St Brycedale campus lately may have noticed the purple flags of the lecturers’ trade union EIS-FELA blowing in the wind.

This is a sign of an ongoing industrial dispute between the lecturers and the management of Fife College.

Lecturers are asking for recognition of the invaluable work they do in educating our future citizens, and what they want in return is an appreciation of their work via a fair pay deal.

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I believe there is a genuine desire on all sides to end the present dispute and find a better way forward.

Fife College Kirkcaldy campus (Pic: Scott Louden)Fife College Kirkcaldy campus (Pic: Scott Louden)
Fife College Kirkcaldy campus (Pic: Scott Louden)

The Scottish Government introduced the National Joint Negotiating Committee (NJNC) as a practical mechanism to resolve such disputes.

This system of national bargaining rightly places responsibility for reaching agreement on the employer representatives and trade unions via the NJNC, without Scottish Government intervention - a principle which is crucial to a modern, flexible college sector.

It is easy to say that the Scottish Government should just give colleges more money, but we are facing the most difficult budgetary position since devolution.

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The Scottish Government remains forever hamstringed by the Barnett formula which is a mechanism that I argue is totally unfair to Scotland.

But, returning to the dispute at hand, I understand the lecturers’ position and have written to the principal of Fife College expressing my concern at the threat of docking workers’ wages for legitimate industrial action.

In my view, this is not in the spirit of the national bargaining body.

I am committed to communicating with Fife College management and continuing to support the lecturers to have their voices heard with a view to finding a way forward for all concerned.

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I have also submitted a question to the Scottish Government on this matter, to be answered in the Scottish Parliament Chamber next week.

Colleges across Scotland make an immeasurable contribution to our communities and our economy, and Fife College is no exception.

I will continue to do everything I can to contribute to the resolution of this dispute as quickly as possible.

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