College lecturers have gone on strike across Scotland in a long-running dispute over pay.
The EIS trade union said its members are taking the action as a last resort following the failure of management to offer a fair deal and create national pay scales for lecturers.
Picket lines were in operation from 7am on Thursday for the one-day strike, but the walkouts are scheduled to continue until the summer and will escalate to two and then three days per week if no resolution is reached.
A total of 32 days’ of industrial action is planned.
on the start of strike action in Kirkcaldy, Alison Davidson, Fife College EIS-FELA branch secretary, said: “Lecturers regret that we have been forced into this action by the intransigence of college management.
“The Scottish Government promised a return to national bargaining in the college sector, and the creation of fair and equitable national pay scales to address the huge differences in pay scales in Scotland’s colleges.
Staff picketing outside theSt Brycedale campus in Kirkcaldy
“Lecturers in Fife College are paid almost £4,500 less than their colleagues in North East Scotland College.
“After a year and a half of negotiations, neither of these commitments has been met and colleges have imposed a pay settlement that widens, rather than narrows, pay inequity across the sector.
“We hope that our support-staff colleagues, students and the wider college community will understand our reasons for taking this action as we seek a fair pay settlement and delivery of the promises that were made to lecturers.
“All we are asking for is equality across the sector.”
Picket lines were in place at the St Brycedale campus in Kirkcaldy, as well as the Rosyth, Halbeath and Stenton campuses early on Thursday morning.
Thursday’s action took place on a non-teaching day, and those striking believe there will be a greater impact when next scheduled days of industrial action Tuesday and Wednesday March 22 and 23 arrive.
A Fife College spokesman said the college was disappointed by the national decision to strike.
“We will do everything we can to minimise disruption to students but inevitably some disruption will occur,” the spokesman said.AngusThere were pickets at each entrance of the Arbroath campus of Dundee and Angus College.
Speaking in Arbroath, Dundee and Angus College EIS-FELA branch chairperson Yvonne Cargill said: “The purpose of today’s protest is two-fold to cause disruption but also to raise awareness of the inequality in pay that lecturers across Scotland face.
“There is a disparity of £12,000 amongst lecturing staff across Scotland. We all do the same job. We all have the same roles and responsibility but what you are paid depends on where you teach.
“The question I want answered is that MSPs represent constituencies around Scotland, but every MSP gets the same salary why don’t we get fair and equal pay as well?
Striking staff at Dundee and Angus College’s Arbroath campus
“We are very pleased with the turnout today. Although GMB and Unison have settled they are also showing their support to the EIS in other ways.
“We’ve got pickets at each of the six or seven gates into the Arbroath campus of D&A College and we have students standing side by side with lecturers, supporting what we are trying to achieve.”
Yvonne added: “Lecturers regret that we have been forced into this action by the intransigent of college management.
“The refusal by management side negotiators to make a fair national pay offer that addresses the wide variations in pay the exist throughout the further education sector breaks a firm commitment that was made to college lecturers.
“The Scottish Government and college management promised a return to national bargaining in the college sector and the creation of fair and equitable national pay scales for lecturers across Scotland.”DundeeClasses are ancelled all day as Dundee and Angus College lecturers in the city join the strike.
Picket lines were formed at the college’s two Dundee campuses: Kingsway and Gardyne.
Steve Oakley, a lecturer at D&A College, said: “The union is looking for harmonisation.Some people are making £15,000 more than other people to do exactly the same job.
Staff outside theKingsway campus in Dundee
“It is also about cuts to further education, as well as different terms and conditions for staff.”
Campuses were almost deserted on Thursday as few as 30 lecturers went into work, out of a total of 320 across all three campuses, said EIS branch secretary Gregor McGillivary.
A college spokesman said all three campuses were open to students to use the library or other facilities despite classes being cancelled.PerthPerth College has been brought to a standstill by the action.
Around 140 tutors at the institute are members of the striking EIS and most have pledged to take part in today’s action. Some students have also joined the protest.
Demonstrators gathered at three entrances to the main college campus early this morning. They are armed with banners calling for “equal pay for equal work” and “support fair pay.”
They said they were encouraged by support from students and passing motorists.
Numeracy lecturer Colin Sands said: “One of things that needs tidied up is the pay structure. I’m out here today because my colleagues on the west coast, for example, who do the same job as me, don’t get paid the same money.”
College principal Margaret Munckton said she was doing everything possible to minimise disruption.
She described today’s strike as “hugely disappointing”. “Although some classes will go ahead as normal, there is no doubt that industrial action will disrupt students’ lives and preparations for their all-important exams,” she said.‘I do not want to do this’College staff have been offered a wage rise of 1% but the union wants action to tackle the wide variation in pay across the sector.
John Kelly, president of the EIS Further Education Lecturers’ Association, told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “This dispute is about equal pay. What that means is that at colleges across Scotland we find huge differentials between payments to lecturers, despite the fact they do the same job.
“It’s a product of the last 23 years of local bargaining. However, back in 2011 the Scottish Government committed itself to a national set of terms and conditions.
“It was welcomed by virtually all the mainstream political parties. Two years ago we went into negotiations with Colleges Scotland to try to achieve this national set of terms and conditions. We have been negotiating for two years now, and to date, we have had no progress at all.”
The EIS said 88% of college members who voted in a ballot backed industrial action.
Mr Kelly told BBC Radio Scotland that he would rather be lecturing than standing on a picket line.
He said: “I should be teaching at 9am in West College Scotland in Paisley, an economics class looking at Brexit.
“Instead my college has forced me to go out on to the streets. I do not want to do this.
“The vast majority of students have been supportive. This is about equal pay.”
Colleges Scotland said the strike will hit 227,000 college students preparing for exams.
Chief executive Shona Struthers 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.”
A strike support fund is being established to support members whose salaries will be disproportionally affected, such as part-time lecturers who would normally work on the planned strike days.