Employees at a Scottish college will take industrial action amid claims of an attempt to remove 30 lecturers’ jobs and replace them with support staff.

The EIS union said the action at Forth Valley College would include "working to rule", where members will do no more than the minimum required by their contract, escalating to a refusal to take an accurate student register, a marking boycott, and refusing to cover for absent colleagues.

Members, who said they were "furious" about what they have described as an attempt to attack their contracts and profession during a pandemic, will be taking action from November 10 until January 29, 2021, unless a resolution is found.

Eighty per cent of participating members voted for action short of strike, with turnout of 53%, in a ballot that closed last week. The members involved are spread across sites in Falkirk, Alloa, and Stirling.

College leaders said they were "deeply disappointed" at the move, adding that it would have a "serious detrimental effect" on students.

The EIS believes that the proposed changes are a retrograde step for the profession and the students. The new roles are lower paid, with more class contact hours, less time for preparation, and reduced annual leave. The union also warns that the move will impact the quality of education on offer to students.

It said the new roles would not require a teaching qualification or General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) recognition. 

Forth Valley College Branch Convenor Anne-Marie Harley said: “We are furious that the college is trying to attack our contracts and profession during a global pandemic. We hope that management with reconsider their position and we will continue to seek a resolution, but this result shows that staff are more than prepared to take action to defend our livelihoods and our students’ right to quality education.”

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: “It is clear that these changes are about cutting costs – no matter the impact on the quality of education. Members across Scotland are concerned that the professional role and status of college lecturers is under threat.”

He added: “Whilst the ballot result is a clear mandate for industrial action, it is not too late for the college to this, but they need to act now and reinstate lecturers’ posts.”

Dr Ken Thomson, Principal of Forth Valley College said: “We are deeply disappointed that some EIS FELA members are planning to take action short of strike action.  This is despite only having 42% agreement with the overall EIS membership at the College.

“The proposed actions will have a serious detrimental effect for our students in progressing their qualifications and their future opportunities. These are students who are already facing challenges due to the ongoing pandemic. Our focus just now should be on supporting them not putting their future plans at any further risk.

“We have fully consulted with staff throughout this process and have full support from our Board of Management. Any decisions we have taken have been made to enhance the learning experience for our students. This is about improving the quality of learning and teaching and bringing it in line with the needs of industry and employers and our proven successful vocational model. As an organisation, we must be flexible and responsive to these needs and evolve. 

“The new Instructor Assessor role is now established at the College - and other colleges throughout the country - and we are confident it will strengthen our delivery model and benefit our students.  We are disappointed that our EIS Representatives are saying to their EIS members that this is only the first of many changes to lecturers’ posts. We have made our position clear, there are no plans to make any further structural changes and we must move on collectively in the best interests of our students.

“In light of the proposed action by some staff, our focus now is on putting plans in place to support our students and trying to minimise the impact on them.”