Further Education (Pay)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 29 February 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

4. To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with colleges and trade unions regarding pay in the further education sector. (S6O-03137)

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I meet campus unions on a biannual basis, and I meet representatives of the sector on a number of forums regularly. Across all my engagement with the sector, I continue to make it clear that, although the fiscal context remains exceptionally challenging for the Scottish Government and the college sector, my expectation is that management and unions will continue to work together to make every effort to reach a fair and affordable settlement. We seemed to see progress towards that settlement a number of times in the past 18 months, only for that progress, regrettably, to stall.

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

As the minister will be aware, industrial action is taking place today in colleges across Scotland because of the on-going pay dispute, which impacts on many of my constituents, both staff and students. Does he agree that both sides need to work constructively for a solution in order for the sector to focus on delivering the high-quality education that its students expect? Can he advise what the Scottish Government can do to support that? Will he restate the Government’s commitment to parity of esteem in the different sections of further and higher education?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

The member can take our intent on parity of esteem as a given.

Although I absolutely respect the right of trade unions to take industrial action, I remain concerned by the impact that that period of industrial action will have on our students, which is why I encourage both sides to come to a resolution. It is, of course, for the college unions and the employers, not the Scottish Government, to negotiate pay and terms and conditions. It should be recognised that agreement has been reached with Unite, the GMB and employers.

I will continue to engage with management and unions, as and when appropriate, in the hope that they can reach a fair and affordable settlement. To discover, as I did yesterday, that there are no plans for the two sides to get back around the table in the wake of the present action is deeply disappointing, to say the least.