UHI Perth has warned staff that any who participate in a national union boycott will be considered "in breach of contract" and docked full pay.

The news came in a letter sent to staff on Friday, seen by The Herald.

In it, college principal and chief executive Dr Margaret Cook said that UHI Perth will treat participation action short of strike (ASOS), particularly a union results boycott, as "unacceptable partial performance and a breach of contract". 

The letter continued: "This will mean that any participating lecturers are in breach of contract and, according, we will deduct pay at 100% during any such period at a rate of 1/365".

In a section entitled "College Advice to Participating Lecturers", Dr Cook reiterated that staff are only entitled to full pay if they perform their contract "in full".

Dr Cook said that she will instruct college management "not to issue instructions to work or put pressure on individuals to work" if they have indicated that they plan to participate in ASOS.

Read more: February dates set for college strike action

But other remarks carried a clear warning to staff:

"It is essential that I make it clear to you what action we intend to take and why this is the case prior to you making any decisions about participating in the ASOS."

Explaining the decision to dock full pay for participating staff, she said that the resulting boycott has the potential to stop college operations altogether through its impact on student progression.

"My decision to take a stronger line in relation to deductions is wholly based on my concerns for the future of UHI Perth, in the light of the levels of annual disruption and bad publicity that the ongoing disputes have had on our community and on our students, in particular.

She added that the timely gathering of student data is critical for colleges and that "any disruption to this process puts our reputation and the future success of the College at risk."

Lecturers at UHI Perth had recently spoken out against local plans to cut staff and courses as part of an ongoing financial review.

Read more: UHI scrutiny puts jobs and courses at risk

In response to Friday's letter, a group of UHI lecturers have said that Scottish Government intervention is needed before the situation at the college deteriorates further. 

"We urgently require the Scottish Government to step in over the shambles that is the massively top-heavy UHI, and we need the Scottish Government to step in and sanction a fair pay award for the sector, on a par with all other public sector workers.

"We urge the Scottish Government to act now before courses are decimated, moral gets any lower, and the prospects of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged learners are damaged beyond repair. 

UHI, UHI Perth and EIS-Fela have been approached for comment.

This announcement follows the news last week that EIS-Fela, the largest union representing college lecturers, is beginning national industrial action in pursuit of a new pay deal.

A national resulting boycott – during which lecturers continue to mark student assessments but refuse to enter grades into the official system – is scheduled to run from February 12 until July 15, or until an agreement is reached.

This is the latest stage in a pay dispute that began at the end of 2022. The current offer on the table is for a pay rise of £5,000 over three years.