Colleges in Scotland could be hit by strikes as lecturers are balloted on industrial action.

Members of the EIS-FELA union are pushing for a rise in pay and greater job security, with an offer of 2% rejected in December of 2022, and have previously engaged in action short of a strike, as well as rolling strike action.

Lecturers are being balloted for both action short of a strike and a full strike in a ballot which closes on January 16.

In its latest budget, the Scottish Government announced it would reduce revenue funding for the college sector to £643m, a reduction of £58.7m from the figure initially presented to parliament for the 2023-24 year.

The government has already scrapped plans to provide £26m in funding to Scotland's colleges in 2023-24.

Read More: Scottish Government accused of presiding over 'quiet death' of further education

EIS General Secretary Andrea Bradley said, “Scotland’s college lecturers should have received a pay rise in September 2022. Today, more than a year later and in the face of the worst cost-of-living crisis in recent memory, our members are still waiting for a fair pay increase.

"The only proposals that have come from employers come with so many strings attached – such as deep job cuts across the lecturer workforce – that they will never be acceptable to our members.

“It is frankly unbelievable that after a year of developing crisis in Further Education, the Scottish Government has decided to cut the budget of colleges to the tune of £58.7m.

"Colleges have a vital role to play in providing quality learning opportunities to communities across Scotland, particularly working-class communities facing significant challenges, but this multi-million-pound reduction in college budgets will only serve to damage their capacity to deliver on this mission. 

"The planned reform for the sector will be a non-starter if the Scottish Government continues to cut colleges to the bone.

The Herald:

“Scotland’s FE sector has been blighted by budget cuts and poor industrial relations in recent years. But college lecturers have and will continue to take a stand and work collectively to protect Scottish further education.

"We recently saw lecturers at City of Glasgow College successfully reverse a planned programme of compulsory redundancies through strong collective action and a long-running programme of industrial action. This followed a similarly successful campaign at Edinburgh College against job and course cuts.

Read More: City of Glasgow College strike ends as union accepts deal

"While industrial action is always an option of last resort, and can be difficult for staff and students alike, it is also an option that can deliver positive results in protecting jobs and course provision.

"I would urge every EIS-FELA member who has not yet cast their vote in this important ballot to do so without delay – it is vital that every member has their say.”

Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland said: “Cutting college funding again creates massive challenges for college leaders. Without adequate funding to deliver education and training, major changes will have to be made. There will be difficult choices about what courses colleges can deliver, what buildings can be repaired, and how to cope with rising staff costs. Colleges have already seen their budgets slashed in previous years.

"As part of the public sector, colleges have to balance their books. It will be incredibly difficult with less funding available for colleges to do this in 2024/25.

“We acknowledge the extremely difficult position that Scotland is facing but colleges require adequate funding to continue to deliver on Scottish Government priorities. This includes providing key workers for health and social care, upskilling the current and future workforce to support the Just Transition, and supporting other vital industries.

“Colleges are of critical importance to Scotland’s people, communities, and the economy, they simply cannot keep delivering more with less.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “While operational decisions on pay and staffing matters are the responsibility of individual colleges, the Scottish Government remains concerned by the impact of potential action on students.

“We expect employers and trade unions to make every effort to reach a settlement which is both fair and affordable with a view of bringing this industrial action to a close.

“We recognise the vital work and support colleges provide to the economy and local communities.  The expenditure budget for colleges in 24/25 is in line with the funds that are available to the sector this year when all the savings that have been delivered in year are accounted for, such as the Transformation Fund.”