Further education lecturers at colleges across Scotland went on strike on Thursday as a campaign by union EIS “for fair pay and pay equality” in Scotland’s colleges escalated.
The initial day of strike action followed a recent ballot carried out by the EIS for members in its Further Education Lecturers’ Association (FELA).
The EIS said that 88% of those voting in the ballot backed the move to strike on a turnout of 61%.
The strikes are scheduled to continue until the summer — escalating to two and then three days per week — if no resolution is reached in the pay dispute, the EIS said.
Colleges Scotland called on the EIS to call off the strike “that will be damaging to the country’s 227,000 college students.”
Scotland’s colleges contribute £14.9 billion to the Scottish economy each year, representing 8.8% of the total economic output of the nation, according to a recent study into the economic impact of the sector in Scotland.
Colleges Scotland said it was confident that a deal could be reached with EIS and that the strikes were not required.
It said the best way to secure a sustainable, quality teaching workforce into the future was to get back around the negotiating table and that a meeting was scheduled for Friday.
Shona Struthers, chief executive, Colleges Scotland, said: “We are under no illusion that the reintroduction of national bargaining to the college sector is a major challenge, but one we fully support.
“Throughout, we have been totally committed to putting the best deal on the table to reward staff for their hard work and commitment.
“Crucially, the deal has to be deliverable in a financially sustainable way, both now and in the future.
“Over the past few weeks real progress has been made, and we could be on the cusp of finding a viable solution. We can deliver a sustainable pay increase now, to everyone.
“We will then take decisive steps towards tackling variances in pay and conditions across the sector and modernising in the longer term.
“As such, we urge EIS to call off its planned strikes that will affect students at a critical time of year — the approach to exam season.”
EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said lecturers were taking this action as a last resort, following the failure of college management to offer a fair deal on pay equality.
“Management side negotiators have dragged their feet for well over a year, before finally making a completely unacceptable pay offer that fails to make any attempt to address pay inequities across the sector,” said Flanagan.
“Some colleges have refused to take part in negotiations at all, highlighting the non-delivery of a national bargaining process that was promised to lecturers by colleges and the Scottish Government.
“The recent threat by colleges to impose their unfair offer on lecturers was the final straw, and has forced EIS-FELA members into this strike action today.”
EIS-FELA President John Kelly added: “The Scottish Government and college management promised a return to national bargaining in the college sector, and the creation of fair national pay scales for lecturers.
“After a year and a half of negotiations, neither of these commitments has been met and colleges now intend to impose a pay settlement that would widen, rather than narrow, pay inequity across the sector.”