College lecturers could be set to strike after backing industrial action in a union ballot.

Members of the EIS-FELA union were consulted on both action short of a strike and a full walkout in a long-running dispute over pay.

Lecturers have previously adopted action short of a strike, which means they will only carry out their contracted duties.

In the ballot, which closed on Tuesday, 85% of voters backed action short of a strike while 77% voted in favour of strike action.

That has given EIS a renewed mandate to take industrial action if a new pay offer is not made.

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EIS General Secretary Andrea Bradley said, “Scotland’s college lecturers have delivered a very clear result in this statutory ballot, and an equally clear mandate for the continuation of industrial action in support of a fair pay settlement. College leaders have attempted to hide behind some of the most draconian anti-trade union laws in Europe, playing for time and forcing a re-ballot in the hope that lecturer resolve would weaken.

"Their tactics have failed, as this ballot result demonstrates clearly that Scotland’s college lecturers remain determined to fight for a fair pay rise.

“Despite this ballot largely taking place over the Christmas and New Year period, where people have many other things to think about, our members cast their votes and have delivered a strong platform on which to continue the campaign for fair pay and guarantees on jobs.

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"College employers must now listen to the lecturer workforce, and join the EIS in calling on additional Scottish Government funding to deliver a fair deal for Scotland’s Further Education lecturers.

“Scotland’s college lecturers should have received a pay rise in September 2022. Today, almost a year and a half later, our members are still waiting for college employers to deliver a fair pay offer.

"The only proposals to have come from employers come with so many strings attached – such as deep job cuts across the lecturer workforce – that the EIS and its members will never accept them. Scotland’s lecturers, and Scotland’s students, deserve far better from college management and the Scottish Government.”

EIS FELA President Anne-Marie Harley, said, “With this fresh industrial action mandate now secured, the EIS will move ahead to consider a new programme of industrial action in the weeks and months ahead if an acceptable and fair pay offer is not immediately forthcoming.

The Herald:

"We would, once again, urge the management of Scotland’s colleges and the Scottish Government to come back with a fair offer that properly reflects the important work that our members do in Scotland’s colleges, and the value of quality Further Education to students of all ages, to Scotland as a whole and particularly working-class communities.”

Commenting on the results of the EIS-FELA’s latest industrial action ballot, Gavin Donoghue, Director of College Employers Scotland, said: “It is regrettable that 45% of EIS-FELA members have voted to continue with strikes and around half with Action Short of Strike (ASOS), including a resulting boycott.

"The resulting boycott, in particular, unfairly targets student progression and has already caused significant anxiety and disruption since it was first launched last year.

“It should be noted that those who voted in favour of strike action and ASOS account for only around a third of the full-time equivalent college lecturing workforce.

“Only last month, the Scottish Government published a draft 2024/25 Budget which, after taking into account the in-year loss of a £26 million transformation fund, set out a cash reduction of £32.7 million, or 4.7%, in college sector budgets. This comes after an 8.5% real-terms cut in Scottish Government funding for colleges since 2021/22.

“These significant financial pressures on college budgets mean that more industrial action will not result in an improved pay offer, only more disruption and anxiety for students.

“We urge the EIS-FELA to recognise the financial reality facing colleges and engage with employers to find a resolution to the pay dispute, allowing colleges to continue providing the world-class learning experience our students deserve.”