Colleges around the north-east reported disruption yesterday as scores of lecturers set-up picket lines at their entrances and more lobbied outside the Scottish Parliament demanding fairer pay.
The action came after staff rejected a 12.2% pay increase from Colleges Scotland, saying the offer did not constitute a cost-of-living rise after a three-year wage freeze.
In Aberdeen, a North East of Scotland Colleges (NESCol) spokeswoman said the majority of classes had gone ahead as normal yesterday.
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Of the 292 lecturers who teach at the campus, 50 are said to have been involved in the strike action.
A small picket line also formed in Inverness, and though the protest itself had dispersed by 9.30am there was nonetheless an impact on classes.
Principal and chief executive of Inverness College UHI, Chris O’Neil said: “While I fully support the right of employees to withdraw labour, the position of employers must also be recognised and I am saddened it has reached this point, given the offer on the table and the financial constraints on the sector.
“Just over 25-per-cent of lecturing staff chose to go on strike today, which has resulted in a number of classes being disrupted.”
Picketing also took place in Thurso, outside the North Highland College, as 17 of the college’s 98 teaching staff decided to take action.
A college spokeswoman said last night they were “disappointed” given the timing, adding: “It is our students who stand to lose the most at a critical time for them and their future.
“The reality is that with a finite amount of money available to the publicly-funded colleges, pay deals must be affordable and sustainable.
“It is hoped that the current dispute can be swiftly resolved”.
Speaking at a rally in support of the pay campaign at the Scottish Parliament today, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The support at the picket lines this morning shows that EIS-FELA is stronger than ever. It is a disgrace that Colleges Scotland have not sat down to negotiate with us ahead of today’s strike action.”
Education Secretary John Swinney has defended the pay offer made, saying resources were there to keep lecturers’ pay in line with other public sector increases.
Mr Swinney added: “The colleges sector finds itself in a position to able to harmonise the contracts of further education lecturers across the country.
“In addition to that, college employers are able to make cost-of-living increases available to members of staff into the bargaining.”
Colleges Scotland chief executive, Shona Struthers, meanwhile said: “This offer on the table is the best overall pay rise for public-sector workers anywhere in the UK but the EIS-FELA want even more.”
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) Further Education Lecturers’ Association (FELA) is calling for a pay rise above the increasing cost of living.
Three further days of action are planned by lecturers.