TURMOIL in Scotland's college sector has come a step closer after lecturers backed moves to hold a ballot on industrial action in a row over pay.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union, which represents lecturers, said the offer of one per cent from management was unacceptable and that a move to strike action was "highly likely".

A special meeting of members organised by the EIS agreed that a ballot should go ahead and also ratified a "co-ordinated and sustained campaign of industrial action" in pursuit of a better pay settlement.

The union argues staff at some colleges are receiving £7,000 a year less than others doing the same job elsewhere.

The EIS wants all unpromoted lecturers to earn up to £40,386, amounting to an uplift of between 3.3 per cent and 25 per cent across the best and worst-paying colleges. However, colleges argue the claim is unrealistic and unaffordable.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said: "The special conference has decided the actions that should now be taken to pursue a satisfactory settlement on lecturers' pay.

"It is profoundly disappointing that, in the first set of pay negotiations within the national bargaining framework, the management side has dragged discussions on for almost a year and then presented a final offer that would only compound issues of pay inequality throughout the sector.

"The EIS will now begin the process of balloting our further education lecturer members for industrial action."

Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said recently that national bargaining had been absent in the college sector for over 20 years and that there were "a number of issues" that required to be addressed.

She said: "Mechanisms have had to be put in place to move from local to national bargaining and then there is the issue of delivering an across-the-board pay increase that is in line with public sector pay policy. There is also the need to address variances in pay around the country.

“The solution proposed by EIS would actually cost the sector over 13 per cent more in wages on average. This is not realistic and definitely not sustainable."