Rural college lecturers in Ayrshire have been going on strike for the last two weeks after voting for industrial action over pay grading.

Further strike days are planned across the next few months alongside a programme of action short of strike.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, claim a pay offer made by Scotland’s Rural University College (SRUC) management would have resulted in sub-inflation pay awards for the majority of their members.

The union say SRUC staff are already being paid significantly less than FE and HE lecturers in other institutions.

The SRUC has campuses in Ayr and Dumfries as well as other locations across the country.

Following an EIS members’ ballot, support for industrial action short of strike was strong (93 per cent) and support for strike action was 86 per cent. Turnout in the ballot was 65 per cent.

Speaking to the Chronicle, a striking lecturer said they want a 51-point pay scale for lecturers at SRUC.

They added: “My colleagues in this building from UWS, no harm to them, but they’re on the national scale. I’m delighted for them, but they’re all getting seven or eight thousand more than me.

“I have a close personal friend, who I started teaching with, they were with UWS, we started at the same time, we started with the same salary, even he’s getting eight, nine or £10,000, more than me.

“I understand management have tough decisions to make. I understand the pandemic, I understand the 2008 financial crisis, I understand land values have dropped, I understand that working as a teacher, and, you know, associated with the rural economy that that there’s not money everywhere. But as a teacher, and a higher education institution, awarding degrees for more than a century.

“I should be on the 51 point scale that every other teacher in the country, everyone else is on.”

An SRUC spokesperson said: “We are disappointed by the actions of the EIS leadership. We have made strong progress in these areas and EIS have been involved and consulted every step of the way.

“We encourage the EIS to re-engage with our agreed internal dispute mechanism, including the ongoing offer of external mediation to resolve any specific concerns they may have.

“We are fully committed to a review of pay and grading, which has already started. We have made a significant offer to our trade union partners on a pay increase for all employees for 2021/2022.”

“In July 2019 SRUC agreed to conduct a review of pay and grading with our three trade unions. Legal advice that followed stated that as a starting point any pay and grading review must be underpinned by a rigorous job evaluation process. The only significant delay since then was due to the global pandemic and a joint arrangement to pause while all parties responded to the crisis.

“In April 2021, SRUC in collaboration with trade unions – including EIS – restarted the project with a joint procurement exercise to appoint a pay and grading specialist consultancy.

“In July we completed this process with agreement from all to award the contract for this work to ECC a not-for-profit consortium of Higher and Further Education organisations and a leader for job evaluation and pay and grading. Work began immediately to prepare a project plan and framework.

“The approach set out has been widely used across the HE/FE sector by 140 organisations and has evaluated the roles of more than half a million employees. This is a tried and tested approach. All the expert advice is that this process will take close to two years.

“This week, these documents were presented to our three trade unions. EIS were aware of the timeframe to develop these documents and our wish to work on this project in collaboration with our trade unions to develop the specifics.

“We have always engaged openly and fairly with our trade unions partners and our doors remain open. We look forward to working with them to discuss what’s best for employees, students, and the future of SRUC.”

Strike action is set for the following dates:

Wednesday 6th October

Tuesday 12th October

Monday 25th October

Thursday 4th November

Wednesday 10th November

Tuesday 16th November 

Monday 22nd November

Thursday 2nd December

Wednesday 8th December

Tuesday 14th December