Scottish Labour conference speech
Conference, Joanne McFadden, Chair of Angus South CLP, candidate for Carnoustie and District in the council elections in May, and first time speaker at conference.
As proposed by Angus South CLP, I am moving the motion on the current state of Further Education in Scotland due to the forced Merging Process by this SNP Scottish Government. Conference will note that Further Education in Scotland is an utter shambles.
Under the SNP’s watch there are 150,000 fewer students in colleges than there were when they came to power, in particular, second-chance learners, women returners to work, workers seeking new skills, people with learning disabilities and elderly learners have all been squeezed out.
In Angus we used to get a prospectus full of part time vocational and leisure courses delivered every year....not any more.
The SNP’s raid on colleges has seen part-time courses slashed, lecturer numbers cut and female admissions plummet.
You don’t need to be an economics genius to recognise the link between vocational college courses and growing our economy, so investing in further education colleges should be part of a long-term strategy for Scotland’s future prosperity. You’d think...
In their 2007 manifesto, the SNP said: “We recognise the key role colleges play in the economy and in their communities, and will help them develop this role as part of a revitalised life-long learning agenda.”
As ever with the SNP, the words are easy, but the reality is…the SNP’s record on colleges is simply shameful –
Students: Turned away.
Lecturers: Paid off or paid less.
Student support: Inadequate and all on top of botched mergers across the country.
Conference may remember that as part of the negotiations to facilitate the “cost cutting” merger process, as driven by Mike Russell, it was agreed in principle between the SNP Government, Scottish Colleges and the respective trade unions that there would be a return to National Bargaining to solve the gross disparities in pay that had been generated, by local, college based, bargaining.
However, Conference will be aware, that time and time again with this SNP Government, this Principle is often forgotten and promises often broken, and the situation across the FE sector is rapidly worsening.
Furthermore, trust has been shattered and now in 2017 we face another round of industrial action.
2016 saw the first ever Official Scotland-wide National Strike in the FE Sector, including in my own constituency, at the recently merged Dundee and Angus college.
Lecturers were rightly angry at years of pay freezes and an imposed 1% “pay deal”, but were especially angry at the scandal of lecturers in some parts of Scotland being paid more than £12,000 a year less than others doing the same job in a different college.
After pressure from the unions the Scottish Government and Scottish College’s management agreed a return to national bargaining over pay and conditions.
Yet nothing has been done to change the unfair and unequal pay in the FE sector.
Increased workloads and cuts to college funding have made the job of adequately teaching and supporting students an impossibility.
Cuts to lecturer’s talk time and contact time with students, cramming of course delivery, with some courses that were delivered in 38 weeks now cut to 34 weeks, means there is just not enough time to help those students who need support and further assistance.
The results of a survey by Unison of college support staff are shocking
A fifth said they have had to take sick leave because of stress, bullying, anxiety or depression.
More than a third have felt bullied
Almost 60% say they are stressed because of too much work and a demotivating environment.
And conference, over 85% of respondents have felt stressed in our colleges over the last two years.
The SNP should be ashamed.
Scottish Labour wouldn’t ignore our staff and students in FE colleges, we would
• Equalise pay and terms and conditions for staff across all colleges in Scotland.
• Stop and reverse the cuts to FE funding.
• Ensure a bursary and grants for all students who need it.
Conference, all this is achievable, if the SNP Scottish Government would get on with the day job, and use the powers it has to fight Tory austerity, instead of focussing on a divisive second referendum.
And so, I’m calling on conference to challenge this SNP Government on their woeful treatment of the FE sector and their broken promises to a dedicated, but demoralised workforce.
Vote for the motion.