Edinburgh College staff walkout over redundancies amid warnings of 'chaos' at city campuses
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Edinburgh college lecturers have resumed all-out strike action over cuts to courses and staff jobs with one former worker claiming they have been ‘victimised’.
Teaching staff at Sighthill and Milton Road campuses will stage indefinite strikes for four days a week, amid walkouts across the country at colleges and universities over pay and conditions.
The Union has stated that the college is in ‘chaos’ after staff numbers have reportedly been cut by up to 60 per cent. Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland – Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) at Edinburgh College took the first in a series of days of strike action on Monday.
Many of the 180 jobs which were at risk under proposed cuts have been saved following union negotiations, while others have since taken voluntary redundancy. But a source at the college told the Evening News some people who took the voluntary package felt forced out the door. He said: “The college made the £6m savings they needed last year through voluntary severance. But many said they felt they were bullied out of the building because their curriculum areas were targeted."
It follows course cuts as events management, retail and stone masonry were withdrawn or due to be cut from the Sighthill site, with other subjects also being scaled back. The Union has warned the cuts are ‘harsh’ for young people as many have turned to college for vital support after school learning took a hit during the pandemic.
Staff recently put forward a vote of no confidence in the principal and board chair. In a deepening row, the union has hit out at management warning of a “huge level of discontent, unheard grievances and a tripling of staff absences due to workplace stress.”
It’s also claimed lecturing staff are being replaced with non-lecturers, which they say is “openly flouting the nationally agreed rules to ensure professional standards in teaching”. They also claim that student results are being manipulated, with alleged cases of students being awarded with passes despite dropping out or failing to take the required assessments.
Kevin Scally, an EIS union representative who was made redundant under the cuts, said: “We all know that reduced government funding has created difficulties for Edinburgh College. In December I wrote to the principal to ask her to join with the staff unions and the student association to try and secure more government funding to maintain educational provision. Instead of that I have been victimised. The union has been asking for an avoidance of disputes meeting since February but management refuses even to talk.”
The college, which has campuses in Granton, Midlothian, Sighthill and Milton Road, is under pressure to cut costs to make savings of £5m.
Principal Ms Cumberford, whose pay rose from £165,000-£170,000 to £190,000-£195,000 in last financial year described it as "one of the most challenging" years in the college's history.
An EIS spokesperson said: “The planned cuts to provision will have a significant impact on learning opportunities available to students and communities served by Edinburgh college. Edinburgh College and its College Board are refusing to meet with EIS-FELA Branch Representatives to resolve grievances or disputes arising from the branch.
The Edinburgh College Principal has refused to meet with local EIS-FELA Branch to discuss the outcome of the redundancy process, or the potential for future redundancies.”
Edinburgh College has been contacted for comment.