TEACHING staff at Forth Valley College are balloting for industrial action amid the institution making more than 30 lecturers’ posts redundant.

The college is replacing the redundant roles with new “instructor assessor” posts which are lower paid and offer more class contact hours and reduced annual leave entitlement.

The EIS union believes that the college is “looking for a cheaper way to deliver lecturers’ work” and that the move will undermine professional standards. The instructor assessor roles will have no requirement to gain a teaching qualification or to comply with the professional standards for lecturers in Scotland which are currently being developed by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).

In a consultative ballot conducted earlier this month, 91 per cent of EIS members voted for industrial action to take place later this year to reverse the introduction of instructor assessor posts. The branch is now proceeding with a statutory ballot, which will run until 22 October.

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Forth Valley College EIS branch convenor, Anne-Marie Harley, said: “Our members are not prepared to tolerate the undervaluing of lecturers by Forth Valley College management. We’re all experienced and qualified professionals, working hard for our students, and our employer should recognise that.

“Lecturers have a requirement to get teaching qualifications and will be professionally registered at the General Teaching Council for Scotland. It’s simply wrong for the college to force lecturers to become lower paid support staff while delivering more teaching.”

The college’s proposals have targeted lecturers in vocational education, including hairdressing, construction, engineering and care. EIS general secretary, Larry Flanagan, said:

“It’s completely unacceptable that management at Forth Valley College are choosing to attack lecturers’ terms and conditions in this manner. :This isn’t just unfair to the workers affected, it’s short-changing students too. They’re simply looking for a cheaper way to deliver lecturers’ work. The role of the lecturer is recognised across the college sector and increasingly by the GTCS.

“It is important to protect the role and status of lecturers in order to deliver the best teaching and learning in colleges.”

The college has warned that industrial action, if it goes ahead, will impact on the learning of students. 

Dr Ken Thomson, principal for Forth Valley College, said: “The Instructor Assessor is a role which is now established at Forth Valley College. There is no going back and we must move on. 

“The action by EIS is hugely disappointing and I want to be clear that any future strike action will have major implications for the College and our students. This attack on learners by the EIS following a difficult period in education, is not something that Forth Valley College can endorse or accept as reasonable. We are already facing huge challenges in light of significant financial pressures and economic uncertainty due to Covid-19. 

“Financial stability, whilst improving learner experiences, is at the heart of the decision-making process for the college. However the narrow focus that has led to this threat is one that we will do our best to overcome. We wish to assure all our learners that we will endeavour to maintain our services and continue to provide the high-quality delivery that they have come to expect.” 

He added: “The Instructor Assessor role has been introduced to strengthen our delivery model and align to industry standards. We must be responsive to needs of employers and deliver the skills and training that they need for their future workforce. This new role brings real value to the student experience and will maintain our strong focus on vocational learning and training. 

“From the beginning of the consultation, our goal was always to retain as many staff as possible and we were pleased when all those at risk were either accepted for our Voluntary Severance Scheme or were guaranteed an offer of employment. I would stress that there were jobs available for all those at risk. We understand that change can be challenging at any time, however, we have been committed to managing this process with staff and have been doing everything we can to support them throughout. 

“Now more than ever, is the time for all staff to come together in a collective effort, to support each other, our students, our local communities and the economic recovery.”