COLLEGE staff in Scotland have been urged to vote yes to take industrial action over pay amid a cost of living crisis, a union has said.
Unison Scotland, the largest union for support staff in higher education, said 92% of its members who work in colleges rejected a pay rise offer made by their employers in a recent consultation.
In response, the union called on its members to “vote yes to the strike” and informed college principals of its intention to vote for industrial action, which will open on Wednesday April 27.
The union said the employers’ final offer was an £850 rise in staff wages, with a one-off payment of £150.
As inflation hits its highest level in 30 years, the group said the offer “would constitute a significant drop in wages in real terms”.
Members are calling on college employers to submit a “fair offer” that “recognizes the severity of the cost of living crisis facing their workforce.”
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Lorcan Mullen, head of higher education at Unison Scotland, said it was no surprise members were approving a union ballot in protest at inflation hitting record highs.
He said: “The cost of living crisis will have to be tackled with higher wages, especially for the low paid, and if employers are unwilling to offer this protection through bargaining, strikes will follow.
“We urge Unison members to return their ballot as soon as they get it and vote yes to strike.”
If members vote to continue and employers don’t offer a further pay rise, Unison said “all Scottish college staff ranks will take industrial action at Scottish colleges before the end of this term” in what they said was the first national strike vote in higher education in six years.
The teaching staff represented by the EIS-FELA also reportedly started a wage strike this week.
Collette Bradley of Unison Scotland said: ‘The final pay offer for college staff does not protect the most vulnerable from the ravages of inflation and rising costs.
“Nor does it compensate them for their efforts throughout the pandemic to keep colleges operational, whether in the form of opening and cleaning buildings or turning their homes into workplaces.
“To date, no compensation has been paid to homeworkers.”
The union said the talks, in which there has been “little progress” so far, will continue on Friday.
Chris Greenshields, also from Unison Scotland, described the employers’ approach as “stunning”.
“All the unions in the college sector are now in a dispute over wages,” he said.
“Staff deserved a pay rise to keep up with inflation by September 2021 and employers are now seven months behind.”
He added: “It is extremely frustrating and calls into question the willingness of employers to resolve this dispute.
“Our members need a good raise now. College support staff are grappling with a record rise in the cost of living and the least they can expect is greater urgency from employers to address this issue.