INDUSTRIAL action has begun industrial action at Forth Valley College in a protest over cuts to 30 lecturers' jobs.

The action involving members of EIS, Scotland's largest teaching union includes ‘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 are taking action from 10th November until January 29 unless and until a resolution is found.

Dr Ken Thomson, principal for Forth Valley College said he was "extremely disappointed" by the action which "have the potential to have a serious detrimental effect for our students".

EIS said that 80% of participating members voted for action short of strike, with turnout of 53%, in a ballot last month. The members involved are spread across sites in Falkirk, Alloa, and Stirling.

READ MORE: Heriot-Watt University staff vote for strike action

The EIS said it believes that the proposed changes are a "retrograde step" for the profession and the students. It said 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 don not require a teaching qualification or General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) recognition.

Forth Valley College branch rep Alison Addie said: “The changes have devastated staff. We’ve been lecturers for years – now we’ve been told that we’re just support staff. I’m really worried about the direction of the college and the impact on students. We want to seek a resolution with management. The college have said there’s no going back so we will take all action necessary to protect our jobs and our students’ education.”

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said, “It’s deeply concerning that the college is moving ahead with these changes. Forth Valley College is looking to cut costs and have decided to target lecturers.”

“Members across Scotland are concerned that the professional role and status of college lecturers is under threat. This is an alarming direction of travel for Scottish education.”

Mr Flanagan added: “It is not too late for the college to change this, but they need to act now and reinstate lecturers’ posts.”

Dr Ken Thomson, principal for Forth Valley College, said: “We are extremely disappointed that some EIS members have commenced action short of strike action today. This is despite just over 50% members voting to carry it forward. The proposed actions have the potential to 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.

“The expertise and professional standards of our lecturing staff has never been in question. We have fully consulted with staff throughout this process and have full support from our Board of Management. The introduction of the Instructor Assessor role has strengthened our delivery model and aligns it to industry standards. This was in direct response to the needs of employers, in order to help deliver the skills and training that they need for their future workforce. The post is already bringing real value to the student experience and will maintain our strong focus on vocational learning and training.

“We are also becoming increasingly frustrated by EIS-FELA’s disregard for other staff working within the college. EIS-FELA’s reference to colleagues they work with as ‘just support staff’ is both dismissive and disrespectful. Our support staff are just as critical to the success of the organisation and they are highly valued. It is the commitment and dedication of all staff – both teaching and support staff – that contributes to the best possible learning experiences for our students. It takes a wide range of roles, skills and abilities to help a college operate and we recognise these attributes in all our staff. All roles have an important role to play as we move forward.

“The new Instructor Assessor post is now established at the College - and other colleges throughout the country - and we are confident it will strengthen our delivery

model and enhance learning and teaching. Our students have been at the heart of any decisions we have made and we strongly believe this is the right approach to support their futures.”