20 things you wanted to know about the Union but were afraid to ask…

Cumbernauld EIS members striking on 5th Feb 2019

Recently, a couple of students from HND TV raised a petition in order to gain support for the scrapping of the Parking Fees that have recently been applied in Cumbernauld Town centre. As students, they feel as though they are being unfairly punished for attending college and they are attempting to gather as many signatures from staff, students and businesses alike…we’ll have more on this at a later date…

Within the Film & TV department, we regularly debate with our students the merits of questioning how news is represented through the Media and the one thing we ask our students is not to place all their trust in what they see, hear and read without properly researching and investigating an issue or a piece of news.

As part of the Law and the Communications Industry unit we discussed Media Regulation and the various laws surrounding Media reporting. Last month we covered the BBC News Coverage of strike action taken by EIS members across colleges in Scotland. We discussed how nuanced debate often gets lost in the need to deliver a quick soundbite. The students, largely young and still to properly embark on their journey into the world of work, understood implicitly the need to protect worker’s rights. They also understood the need for solidarity and how important a collective spirit is when it comes to working together effectively.  

We had a discussion on Trade Unionism in Scotland and the history of famous trade union battles including Jimmy Reid‘s Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in, the Miners strike and the impact de-industrialisation had on communities such as Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Fife in the 80’s and the Trade Union Act which means you need a 50% turnout of eligible members to be legally valid. We looked at the editorial decisions during the news coverage of the Battle of Orgreave and we discussed how dangerous the Media can be when it comes to the mis-representation of facts.

Yesterday saw teaching staff across all three campuses embark on a second day of strike action. I had discussed this with students last week and they raised some excellent questions about the validity of the strike action. We were able to agree on the subject of fairness and the idea that public sector cost-of-living wage rises need to be consistent and any offer has to be consolidated. I also reiterated that teaching staff do not like strike action as it invariably impacts on both teaching staff and students. I told them I get very well paid for the job I do in the context of wider society. However, I also pointed out that some Principals in FE were paying themselves more than the First Minister of Scotland. They all laughed at this!!!

Sadly, this is not a joke. We are living in an age where there are some lecturers who are feeding students because they have not eaten. Our core student demographic in Lanarkshire region is largely poor and disenfranchised. They are particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of the modern workplace with zero hour contracts and an erosion of rights which would make a Victorian Mill owner envious.

The perfect storm looms as Brexit approaches and now more than ever, to coin Tony Blair’s famous mantra, we need “Education, Education, Education” to distinguish fact from fiction.   

Alan Moffat
Film & TV Lecturer (and EIS Cumbernauld Branch Convener)​

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