Calls for strike action have been echoing around Scotland because of the Scottish government’s failure to implement a fair pay scheme for college support staff.
Caterers, cleaners and groundskeepers as well as those working in admissions, funding and security, are feeling undervalued because their colleagues, teaching staff, are set to receive a pay rise which almost doubles that of the support staff, a report from The Scottish Daily Mail states.
The £230 annual flat rate increase that support staff have been offered compared to the £400-500 increase that teaching staff will be awarded has already caused some to take to the streets.
One group of janitors that goes by the hashtag #Justice4Jannies left Twitter and took to the Kelpies in Falkkirk where they started their 28 mile march to Glasgow in order to raise awareness for their cause. The Justice for Jannies campaign, started in January by a group of trade unionists and organised by UNISON, gained momentum at the beginning of this week due to the strike, but has been in motion since the announcement of the provisional wage increases. In May the trade unionists completed the first of their full five day strikes only after they boycotted the more dangerous of their duties. They proclaim that their job is ‘essential’ and that the often dangerous and unpleasant jobs that they do warrant a larger wage, a subject which has not been addressed in far too long according to David Jaimieson on Common Space.
The pay rises are earmarked as a ‘cost of living increase’ which apply to both teachers and supporting staff. There is so much discontentment amongst UNISON members because the same expense of living applies to everybody outside of college, yet whilst supporting staff ‘support the same students’ and ‘help deliver the same courses’, they are forced to live on half the wage that teaching staff receive, UNISON organiser John Gallacher announces.
Gallacher goes on to state the importance of strike action and the difference it could make in the bid to create equality in school wages. He announces on the UNISON website that:
“The new national bargaining machinery needs to deliver and make progress and the 2016 pay settlement is a good place to start.
“The Scottish government needs to give additional funding to this deprived sector as they promised in the last Scottish Parliament elections.
“Striking is a last resort, but we will support our members in every way possible to achieve the same fair and reasonable pay settlement as already paid out to teaching colleagues.”
There has been a meeting scheduled for the 25th of August which will address the issue and try to avoid any further disruptions to the beginning of the new academic year which, for many starts on September 5th.
The proposed strike could still be avoided if a settlement is reached, but Colleges Scotland consider strike action ‘unavoidable’ due to the ‘overwhelming’ support for an all-out strike, Holy Rood Magazine reports.
Chief executive of Colleges Scotland, Shona Struthers accused UNISON of ‘misrepresenting the facts’. When speaking with Holy Rood Magazine she had this to say:
“UNISON’s case for strike action is based on factually confused comparisons between the deal done with lecturers in April and the agreement that we reached with support staff in January.
“It is important to understand that the settlement for lecturers was a two-year deal while the support staff settlement was only for 2015/16 and negotiations are ongoing for 2016/17.”