For the week of the 26th of June, the Educational Institute of Scotland – Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) branch at Edinburgh College were on strike. They were out in solidarity with one of their comrades, Kevin Scally, who has been subject to a brutal campaign of bullying from college management, resulting in him being made redundant.
Scally was a lecturer on the Events Management course at Edinburgh College which, despite Edinburgh being known worldwide for the Fringe Festival, has been axed by the college. This is one of a series of courses cut at the college, hitting various subject areas from the arts and culture, to childcare and trades such as stonemasonry.
At the beginning of the year, 189 staff who worked on these courses were brought into a room and informed that their jobs were at risk. The management at the college tried obvious and open fearmongering and scare tactics to get staff to take deals to leave “of their own accord” by the end of the semester.
Many people, understandably, took these deals out of fear of the hit to their wellbeing and that of their families if they were to be thrown into unemployment during the current economic crisis. However, Kevin Scally stood up to this shameless intimidation from the bosses and he challenged them.
When subject to this brave comrade’s scrutiny, the bosses’ arguments immediately crumbled. They could not provide concrete reasons for making him redundant or cutting his course. They refused his right to retraining and redeployment, giving bogus reasons for why he can’t teach other courses in the college.
It is clear management has waged an open war against Kevin, as he said to Revolution during an interview on the picket line: “I’ll say it as it is, it’s bullying. It’s as simple as that”.
For this bullying the bosses can offer no solid justification. However, their reasoning is abundantly clear, Scally is a prominent member of the EIS-FELA branch at Edinburgh College. He is a long serving rep, currently for policy and health and safety, and he sits on national Further Education councils for EIS. The branch at Edinburgh College is a strong one, and management are clearly threatened by this.
The attack on Kevin Scally is the start of a class war waged against the workers at Edinburgh College. The branch, however, has stood strong in the face of this attack. They rallied around their comrade, understanding that the attack on him was an attack on all and a sign of things to come, and they smashed the ballot with a unanimous decision to go on strike to protest his sacking.
The focal point of the week of strike action was a rally at the Granton Campus on the 29th of June. After a picket, branch members from all campuses gathered for speeches and songs in support of Kevin Scally and against the bosses. There was a strong militant mood, with speech after speech preaching the importance of solidarity and unity in the face of attacks from the bosses and their rotten class.
The role of further education in working class communities was also stressed. FE provides a second chance at education for a lot of people, further it is a place of training in areas like childcare and trades which are essential to the running of society.
The attack on this service was called what it was: an attack on the working class. There was solidarity shown by students too as a Scottish college student group spoke in very militant terms about cuts to further education and other students extended their solidarity to Scally.
A Revolution comrade also spoke at the rally. They put forward demands of an end to austerity, democratic control of the college by staff and students, and ending with a call to kick capitalism out of education – all of which were received by the branch with cheers and shouts of agreement. The rally ended with a touching speech from Kevin and his family, hammering home the effects of the callousness of the bosses.
Capitalism is a cancer within education. Its insatiable hunger for profit threatens to gobble up the whole public sector and spit it back out again. Austerity and cuts to education are not simply a political choice by the Tories or the Scottish Government, but an inevitable product of capitalism. Public services do not produce profit for the capitalists, so they are first on the chopping block when there is an economic crisis.
Today, the contradiction between the needs of society and what this system can offer us could not be more stark – showing how far into its senile decay capitalism is. A resolution to this contradiction can only come through overthrowing this rotten system, so society can be organised around the needs of the many and not the profits of the few.