UHI staff need support
A Perthshire politician has questioned the minister for further and higher education over Perth College’s plan to fill management roles amidst the axing of teaching positions.
Green Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Mark Ruskell spoke out following concerns raised about the strategy by both lecturers and students as the institute gets set to cut 21 teaching posts due to financial difficulties.
At the Scottish Parliament, Mr Ruskell asked Richard Lochhead MSP: “Given that the University of the Highlands and Islands is the only publicly funded higher or further education institution that lacks a collective bargaining agreement for all staff, does the minister agree that it should develop one urgently in order to meet the government’s fair work agenda?”
In response Mr Lochhead said colleges and universities had a “responsibility to cut their cloth”and said the issue was“a matter for Perth College and UHI”.
He added:“However, I note that, given the pressures that people are facing in their personal lives due to COVID-19 and their concerns about job security at this sensitive time, all our institutions should be sensitive to the needs of their employees.
“I am confident that is the case, but I will keep reiterating that message.
“We have a fair work agenda, which should always be respected by our colleges and universities.”
After the meeting Mr Ruskell said:“At universities and colleges across Scotland, staff are anxious about their future.
“Fixed term staff are in the most precarious positions, which is well over half of academic staff at most universities.
“The government must ensure staff are protected. Trade unions are the best way for workers of all kinds to protect their interests and allow teachers, at all education levels, to provide the best and most robust education to their pupils.
“It is vital that the Scottish Government do what it can to support Perth College and encourage collective bargaining across the education sector.”
A Perth College spokesperson added:“Perth College UHI is part of the collective national bargaining agreement for colleges.
“The college previously engaged in a consultation process with its trade unions but this was suspended ahead of lockdown.
“Perth College UHI recently issued advertisements to permanently fill academic management vacancies that have been covered on an interim basis to ensure the continued quality of our student experience.
“These vacancies were within our budgeted spend.
“We recognise that the college sector is experiencing significant financial challenges which have been heightened due to COVID-19, resulting in the need for Perth College management and board to make difficult future decisions to maintain our continued financial sustainability.”