More than 200 college staff have begun strike action in a dispute over what they say is the removal of lecturer jobs.

Action is taking place across three Forth Valley College campuses, including Falkirk, Alloa, and Stirling, for 18 days over three months.

The EIS Union says the dispute is escalating as year-long talks between its branch and the employer have failed to bring about a resolution since changes were made last March.

READ MORE: Planned strike action suspended

These, according to the union, include the replacement of lecturers’ posts with support staff across different departments. It added that the new roles are lower paid and do not require any teaching qualification.

EIS leaders believe members are being asked to do the same job but with much lower pay, less annual leave, and no limit to class contact time. 

HeraldScotland: Three college campuses are affected.Three college campuses are affected.

Larry Flanagan, EIS General Secretary, said: “We are very concerned about the removal of the role of qualified and experienced lecturers in Scottish further education.

"We won’t accept that for our members and we won’t accept it for students. I urge Forth Valley college management to do the right thing and review these posts as a matter of urgency.”

READ MORE: Any cuts in the middle of the pandemic 'must be stopped'

Anne-Marie Harley, EIS Branch Convener, added: “It is unforgivable that we’ve had to deal with this during a global pandemic - on top of everything else.

"My colleagues have seen a huge increase in workload. 

"At the minute, there is just not enough time for my colleagues to mark and prepare work the way they used to. We know our students and we want what’s best for them - that’s qualified and experienced lecturers.”

Dr Ken Thomson, Principal of Forth Valley College, said: “EIS-FELA Local and EIS FELA National recently voted for strike action, in relation to Instructor Assessor roles within colleges.

“The 15 days of national action were suspended on Monday this week, pending a further meeting on Thursday 18 March 2021. 

“However the first of three planned dates of local industrial action took place today (Wednesday 17 March 2021).   In the best interests of learners, all classes were cancelled today, unless alternative arrangements were put in place by individual departments. 

“Beyond today we will review the situation for further dates of proposed action. Our aim is to minimise the impact on learning and teaching, wherever possible, and continue to deliver the best possible learning experiences for our students whilst a resolution is found for this dispute.  A key priority is to ensure these students, who are already facing challenges due to lockdown restrictions, can complete their qualification and move forward onto their next steps.

HeraldScotland: EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan.EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan.

“The College has been clear from the outset that the role of Instructor Assessor will not be removed from our organisational structure.  There are currently 44 Instructor Assessors in post and some of these are new members of staff.  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 and their future skills and training needs, and the role forms a key part of our vision for 2030.  

“The expertise and professionalism of our lecturers has never been in question.  Both Lecturer and Instructor Assessor roles bring real value to the student experience.

“We do realise that any change can be challenging and we have fully consulted with staff throughout the process and offered them support. We have also been clear that the process is now complete and no more staff are at risk.  However following a request for further reassurance, a commitment has been made to all Lecturers from the Principal, which has been sent by post. This ensures that while they are Lecturers at Forth Valley College, there is no plan, either now or into the future, to make their post redundant and replace it with an Instructor Assessor role.

“Moving forward, we will continue to listen and engage with EIS-FELA.  However, our position is that we require an acceptance from EIS-FELA in regards to the role as believe this is the right approach as we align our national delivery model to industry standards.”