Letters ‘clarify’ college’s position over union boycott

UHI Shetland have defended its position of sending letters to teaching staff last week, warning of a breach of contract.

As reported in this week’s edition of The Shetland Times, as part of a long-running dispute over pay, members of the Education Institute of Scotland Further Education Lecturers Association (EIS-fela) voted in favour of two forms of industrial action.

A strike, scheduled to take place on 29th February, and a boycott which began on Monday 12th February.

According to ESI-Fela Shetland branch secretary Andrew Anderson, the college sent out “threatening” letters which warned of pay being docked by 100 per cent if the staff took part in the boycott.

Mr Anderson slammed the move as “draconian” and it was a “kick in the teeth” to the lecturers.

Now, the college said that this move was in line with 90 per cent of Scottish colleges and was to “provide clarity” over the consequences.

“Our priority is our students, and we wish to minimise the harm a resulting boycott will do to the students learning and progressing in their training and careers,” the college said.

“In having written to our staff who may take part in the EIS-Fela resulting boycott to inform them this would be considered a breach of contract and will result in pay deductions.

“The letter that went to UHI Shetland staff was similar to letters that went out to other colleges to provide clarity to our staff of the consequences of this industrial action.”

Director of College Employers Scotland, Gavin Donoghue said it was “deeply regrettable” that the union would urge members to take part in the boycott.

Deductions in pay was also “never a measure colleges want to take”.

Mr Donoghue said: “They simply cannot accept the risks that another resulting boycott would create for the awarding of qualifications, and the ability of students to progress in their learning journeys and careers.”

He added that the colleges remained committed to the “full and final” offer to the EIS-Fela of a £5,000 consolidated pay rise over three years. 

This was despite the Scottish government proposing to cut college budgets by £32.7 million, or 4.7 per cent, in 2024/25, after an 8.5 per cent real-terms reduction in public funding since 2021/22, he said.


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