Fife College students will be affected by more strike action today (Wednesday).

Lecturers will walk out for the third time this year over a row over pay.

The Educational Institute of Scotland’s Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) say they are campaigning for a "fair cost of living pay increase" and have already taken action in January and February.

Colleges Scotland say talks aimed at averting the action broke down without a resolution.

They have expressed their frustration at what they say is the “repeated refusal” of the EIS-FELA to engage in meaningful negotiations or offer to make any concessions in return for being offered yet more pay for lecturers.

John Gribben, Director of Employment Services at Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association, said: “Colleges have now made six improved pay offers to try and resolve the pay dispute and end the unnecessary EIS-FELA strikes, but, yet again, they have not accepted our latest offer, nor will they seek the views of their membership.

“While the EIS-FELA’s intransigence is disappointing, it is not surprising, as they don’t engage in meaningful negotiation and are not prepared to make any concessions in return for more money for already very well-paid lecturers.

“College lecturers have seen substantial pay rises from the harmonisation deal agreed in May 2017 and significant improvements to their terms and conditions, including 62 days’ holiday a year, a reduction in class contact time to 23 hours per week, excellent pensions, and a commitment from colleges to pay for those lecturers without formal teaching qualifications to gain TQFEs within existing working hours.

“The pay harmonisation rises from 2017 to 2020, combined with the additional pay offer on the table from colleges, equates to a national average increase of over £5,000 but the EIS-FELA has rejected this as it is still not enough for them.

“This is the third time in four years that the EIS-FELA has gone out on strike and is regrettably now their default position. Lecturers in Scotland are by far the best paid across the UK.

“The EIS-FELA is demanding the same deal as colleges agreed with the support staff trade unions in October 2018, but they are cherry-picking the best parts of the deal and ignoring aspects they don’t like, such as Job Evaluation.

“Colleges recently offered to extend the pay deal until September 2020 – the same as the support staff deal – which increased the financial envelope of the offer to £12.6 million, which more than meets in the middle the difference between the EIS-FELA pay demand of £14 million and colleges’ previous offer costing £10.1 million.

“The EIS-FELA is balloting their members to escalate short of strike action and has vowed to withhold assessment results from colleges, which would prevent students from graduating and progressing to other college or university courses.

"This is a gamble by the EIS-FELA designed to get the Scottish Government to intervene as they calculate that will get them more money, but they are recklessly gambling with students’ futures.

“The Scottish Government has made it clear that there is no more money for lecturers’ pay and colleges have to find this additional £12.6 million pay deal on offer by making cuts.

“If there were any more money available, our priorities would be for additional investment in enhancing students’ experiences and on further improving college campuses, as £65.8 million is already being spent over three years on lecturers’ pay and conditions.”

EIS-FELA say they put forward a new proposal to management ¬ - which didn’t involve any more money from colleges – which was flatly rejected by Colleges Scotland.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: "It is disappointing that Colleges Scotland failed to accept the EIS offer to suspend strike action earlier this week. EIS-FELA put a straightforward proposition to them which didn’t include additional money but which would have allowed negotiations to continue."

"Colleges Scotland rejected this and therefore the programme of industrial action will continue with today’s strike, with a strong possibility of escalating action to follow."