LECTURERS at Edinburgh College are to ballot for a strike after their union rep was threatened with disciplinary action.
Up to 500 members of the EIS teaching union could walk out in protest at management moves against Penny Gower, who is branch secretary at the college.
She has come under fire over the case of a lecturer who was sacked for what the union says were trivial and unsubstantiated allegations.
The EIS said she had been accused of “inappropriately encouraging strike action” and “bringing the college and HR team into disrepute”. But it insisted she was only carrying out her trade union duties.
Ballot papers for the proposed strike will go out this week. The EIS is calling for the disciplinary action against Ms Gower to be dropped and for the sacked lecturer to be reinstated.
Ms Gower said: “It is laughable really, that management think it’s appropriate to target the trade union rep for having the temerity to let our members know about the dreadful way a member she was representing, has been treated.”
She claimed none of the disciplinary charges against the lecturer was valid or had any substance.
She said: “He faced anonymous complaints and staff-room tittle tattle that was elevated to the status of ‘whistleblowing’ – that, for example, he referred to a student on the phone in the staff room as ‘honey’. The student’s name was actually Honey.”
The union also alleges the college breached its own disciplinary procedures – and natural justice – in dealing with the case.
It said: “Witness statements were used against the lecturer, yet no opportunity was provided to question these witnesses; indeed the statements were submitted as anonymous statements.”
Ms Gower added: “Management needs no help from the union rep – they are quite capable of bringing themselves into disrepute.
“I’ve been an EIS rep in further education for over 40 years and never seen a management showing such contemptuous disregard for disciplinary processes as the current one at Edinburgh College.”
A college spokesman said: “We cannot discuss HR matters relating to individual staff members as we treat them all with absolute confidentiality.”