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UHI colleges set to join Scotland-wide UNISON strike action in 2024

By Alasdair Fraser

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UNISON members will take strike action
UNISON members will take strike action

Staff at UHI colleges are set to join colleagues across Scotland by taking fresh strike action in 2024.

UNISON says that members across Scotland, including at UHI’s Inverness, Moray, Argyll, Perth and North, West and Hebrides colleges, voted overwhelmingly in favour of further action next year.

The latest announcement comes after months of action by support staff in colleges this year in a dispute over pay, job security and pay harmonisation.

UNISON re-balloted members working in colleges, saying that college employers had failed to properly negotiate with them to reach a settlement.

The ballot found 81.1 per cent of members were in favour of strike action, with a 59.3% turnout.

A leading UNISON official said members were facing “real financial hardship” and called on the Scottish Government to do more.

The union represents employees in college services and student support, including librarians, IT specialists, technicians, administrative and business support staff, cleaners, canteen workers and estate management staff.

Strikes are now set to take place in colleges across Scotland next year unless a resolution can be found.

The unions say that college employers have made a three-year pay offer.

No funds were in place for the third year of the offer and employers said that jobs would be at risk unless the Scottish government guaranteed funding.

Chris Greenshields, UNISON Scotland’s further education branch secretary, said: “This ballot result shows our members feel very strongly about the appalling approach by college employers.

“College staff are facing a second Christmas in real financial hardship.

“Our members have been waiting 16 months for a pay rise in line with inflation, free from the ongoing threats to their jobs.

Unison will take strike action
Unison will take strike action

“UNISON is calling for employers to release last year’s pay rise to college staff immediately to alleviate hardship this winter and given the unforgivable length of time this is taking.

“We are also calling for the Scottish government minister to join talks with unions and employers to bring this dispute to an end.

“Further education is surely the worst publicly-funded sector in Scotland.

“We have had months of disputes and job insecurity, yet here we are again lurching towards more strikes in 2024.

“College staff are left with no choice but to use the ultimate sanction to get the fair pay and job security they deserve.

“The Scottish Government needs to do more."

UNISON Scotland further education branch chair, Collette Bradley said: "The prospect of a three-year deal was suggested by the Scottish Government, most likely as a means of securing industrial peace in a sector that has been blighted with industrial action for around a decade.

“No doubt, industrial peace in colleges would help the minister as we get nearer a Scottish election, but staff need a guarantee that this will not affect their job security.

“As it stands, our members have the worst of both worlds and are furious at below inflation pay offers and the prospect of being made compulsorily redundant to boot.

“Pay has long since been settled for every other sector.

“It's time the Scottish Government pulled out all the stops if it is serious about the working class learners who depend on colleges and the vital role the sector plays in the Scottish economy."

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