COLLEGE students across Scotland will face disruption on Wednesday as lecturers begin strike action over pay.

Teaching staff from the college sector are taking the first of four planned one day strikes in pursuit of a salary increase which reflects the rising cost of living.

Colleges have said buildings will stay open with students able to access libraries and their computers. However, no teaching will take place.

A deal to harmonise pay and conditions in 2017 following a series of mergers has already led to salaries of more than £40,000 for unpromoted lecturers.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) argues the current deal does not take account of the full impact of inflationary pressures since then.

However, Colleges Scotland, which represents management, said the deal would take the average pay increase from nine per cent to more than 12 per cent.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said the union had modified its claim, but accused colleges of failing to meet for discussions.

He said: “I understand union negotiators have moderated the original cost-of-living claim, which now matches the deal agreed with support staff unions and should provide the basis for agreement to be reached.

“That cannot happen, however, unless management is at least prepared to come to the table.”

Mr Flanagan said there was a “cynical view” that colleges were happy to allow the strike to go ahead because it would mean they could make savings.

But he added: “My view is that, like me, college principals are keen to see a negotiated settlement which avoids further strike action and disruption.

“I would urge that even at this late stage Colleges Scotland agree to negotiations.”

Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said it was “extremely disappointing” that lecturers were taking strike action for the third time in four years.

She said: “At the heart of this dispute is the union’s refusal to recognise that the substantial pay increases awarded to most lecturers from the previously agreed deal represent a pay rise.

“They also want more pay for cost of living, but a pay rise is a pay rise, irrespective of where it comes from.

“As well as most lecturers receiving hefty pay rises all lecturers have benefited from receiving a minimum of 62 days’ annual holiday, a reduction in weekly contact with students to 23 hours, excellent career-average pensions and have all their terms and conditions either safeguarded or enhanced.”

Colleges Scotland argues that Scottish lecturers are already the best paid across the UK.

Mrs Struthers added: “Finances are extremely tight for colleges and all of the modest £18.3 million revenue increase in the Scottish Government’s 2019/20 draft budget is ringfenced to pay for the increases already agreed, so colleges must make cuts elsewhere to pay for an additional cost of living offer.”

Richard Lochhead, the further education minister, urged lecturers and college management to resolve the dispute.

He said: “The Scottish Government has invested heavily in Scotland’s colleges and is funding in full the additional costs of this harmonisation, which is helping colleges deliver an average nine per cent pay increase to lecturers over three years.

“I continue to urge both sides to resolve this dispute in a spirit of collaboration and co-operation as its continuation is in no one’s interests, least of all our students.”