Scottish college lecturers have gone on mass strike amid fears their employers are seeking to replace them with staff whose qualifications and pay are inferior.

It means they will not be marking, preparing classes, connecting to online teaching platforms or responding to students.

One lecturer tweeted to her colleagues: "You're on strike to save your job, save your profession, and save education. That's your work today."

In a short video posted on social media, another said: "College lecturers are on strike today because lecturers are being made redundant and are being replaced with non-lecturing staff to do a lecturing job, which is clearly unacceptable. So, hopefully, common sense will prevail."

The Colleges Scotland employers association has described the action, which is likely to cause significant and extensive disruption, as "extremely disappointing".

It comes despite a joint announcement last week from the EIS-FELA union and Colleges Scotland that the planned action would be suspended.

READ MORE: Classes cancelled as dispute continues

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "I have been involved in many negotiations over my years as a trade unionist, but rarely have I seen anything more bizarre than an employer failing to ratify an agreement largely based on its own proposals.

"This is exactly what the employers' body Colleges Scotland has done this week. The agreement struck last week, through the National Joint Negotiating Committee (NJNC), incorporated proposals that came from Colleges Scotland itself.

"Following the agreement, the EIS agreed to suspend the planned EIS-FELA strike action to allow both sides to formally ratify the NJNC agreement through their own structures.

"EIS-FELA duly ratified the agreement, only to then find that Colleges Scotland was now refusing to do likewise - with the management side effectively rejecting its own proposals.

HeraldScotland: EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan.EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan.

"Having shown good faith in suspending the strike action and ratifying the agreement, our EIS-FELA members are outraged at the duplicity displayed by Colleges Scotland.

"Lecturers do not want to strike but are taking a stand in defence of lecturing jobs and high standards of teaching across the Scottish further education sector."

A spokeswoman for Colleges Scotland said: "The EIS-FELA is breaching national agreed protocols by taking unnecessary industrial action whilst meaningful discussions are still ongoing.

"The strike action is taking place because the EIS-FELA has claimed colleges are trying to replace lecturer posts with less qualified and less well paid staff. This simply isn't true.

"In our discussions, the EIS-FELA has agreed that there is no national plan to replace lecturers with other roles like tutors, assessors or instructors.

"We also both agree that all roles in colleges, whether they be lecturing or support staff, are valuable and that each role is distinct.

"There is one detail left on the table for discussion, and the employers want to make sure that the final agreement recognises the complex and professional nature of the job that lecturers do.

"We hope that the ongoing discussions lead to a positive outcome."

READ MORE: Planned strike action by college lecturers next week suspended

The issue was also raised by Scottish Labour MSP Iain Gray in questions to Further Education Minister Richard Lochhead at Holyrood on Tuesday.

During his response, Mr Lochhead called on employers and unions to continue with negotiations "without the need for industrial action which is absolutely not in the best interest of our learners, especially at this time against the backdrop of the pandemic".

HeraldScotland: Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead.Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead.

Matt Crilly, NUS Scotland president, said: "College students have had a raw deal this year, so it comes as a major blow that college management has walked away from a joint agreement, causing thousands of more students to be disrupted by strike action.

"NUS Scotland shares the concerns raised by EIS-FELA and are deeply disappointed by the moves of some colleges to replace our lecturers with less qualified instructor assessors, which undoubtedly will lead to a cut to the quality of our education.

"When some college students are already at risk of not completing their courses this year, we need college bosses to put students and staff first, return to the joint agreement and avoid even more disruption to our learning."