Scotland’s education system is facing increasing uncertainty after college lecturers became the latest group to threaten strike action in a bitter battle over pay.

Salary negotiations between unions representing lecturers and college management broke down this week with the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) now warning a strike ballot is inevitable.

The move comes as thousands of teachers from across Scotland take to the streets of Glasgow today to march in protest over a breakdown in pay talks for school staff.

Teaching unions are already balloting members with a recommendation to reject the offer.

This week school support staff in Glasgow, including classroom assistants and cleaners, closed primary schools across the city in a walk-out over equal pay.

The mood is acrimonious in both school and college sectors with union leaders at loggerheads with employers and John Swinney, the Education Secretary.

The most pressing concern for Mr Swinney and councils is the pay battle in the school sector which intensified this week.

On Friday, following a meeting of local authority umbrella body Cosla, council leaders agreed to send a letter directly to teachers - jointly signed by Mr Swinney - setting out the “value and merits” of the latest deal.

A leaked Cosla email on the issue stated: “This is felt necessary to counter partial and misinformation ... released by the EIS in particular.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, responded by suggesting the letter would be seen as a “gross interference”.

“Teachers are growing increasingly angry at the way they have been treated,” he said.

“This national demonstration is a sign teachers are not prepared to sit back and take it any more.”

Mr Swinney’s letter also provoked disagreement within Cosla, with leaders representing Labour or independent-led councils voting against the move and some subsequently stating they would refuse to send out the letter.

The mood has also significantly darkened in the college sector with the management side arguing the deal would result in a 12 per cent increase over three years - including increases through pay harmonisation following college mergers.

John Gribben, director of employment services at Colleges Scotland employers’ association, said: “It is extremely disappointing that the union’s intransigence and refusal to recognise the substantial average pay increases from harmonisation are pay rises as it is destabilising the sector and threatening a significant number of jobs.

“The additional pay demand would take average pay to an unsustainable level costing colleges an additional £60m which is utterly unaffordable and would bankrupt the college sector.

“The EIS is adopting an unreasonable, belligerent approach based on disingenuous claims when they should recognise and agree to the excellent combined pay offer for lecturers.” In contrast, unions argue the basic offer amounts to a 2.5 per cent consolidated uplift over three years which would, in effect, be a pay


A spokeswoman said: “We are extremely concerned about the indifference shown by the management side.

“Our executive will discuss the outcome its next meeting. It is likely, given the refusal of management to improve on an already rejected offer, that consideration of an industrial action ballot will be initiated shortly.”