College lecturers will go on strike in February and start a boycott to withhold student results until July.

EIS-FELA has notified college employers that lecturers will take part in a national strike day on February 29.

This will be accompanied by a national results boycott beginning on February 12, which will run until July 15 or until there is a pay agreement.

Union members are also organizing a rally in front of the Scottish Parliament on February 29.

The college lecturers’ union received a fresh strike mandate from its members earlier in January. This followed a previously unsuccessful strike ballot carried out in the autumn of 2023.

If there is no pay agreement in time, it will mean yet another round of industrial action tied to a 2022 pay claim and two consecutive years of a results boycott.

The most recent pay offer tabled by College Employers Scotland (CES) is for a £5,000 pay rise over three years.

CES director Gavin Donoghue said that the plans for a new results boycott will only put students unfairly in the firing line.

“The trade union’s own communications acknowledge that colleges are now facing a significant cash cut in government funding.

“We, therefore, urge the EIS-FELA to face up to the reality of the situation, cancel their plans for strikes and a new resulting boycott, and accept the fair pay offer that is currently on the table from employers.”

But EIS-FELA representatives want more protection from possible job cuts and don’t feel the pay rise offers enough money to lecturers struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

When announcing the strike plans to members, FELA president Anne-Marie Harley called on colleges and the Scottish Government to produce a higher pay offer that “properly reflects the important work that our members do in Scotland’s colleges”.

Andrea Bradley EIS, said that the union will continue to hold out until there is more guaranteed protection from redundancies across the sector.

EIS-FELA executives met late on Friday afternoon to discuss potential targeted or rolling strikes, but there has been no formal announcement of any further industrial action.

And so, the dispute enters its second year.

When speaking to The Herald ahead of the most recent strike ballot, however, EIS-FELA leadership said that members had made it clear they wanted to move straight into a new results boycott this year.

Read more: 'There can be no bystanders' as union prepares next stage in college pay dispute

During the boycott last year, lecturers continued to mark students' assessments but refused to enter them into official systems. This affected parts of the 2022/23 and 2023/2024 academic years.

It meant that students left college in the spring of 2023 without official results, and therefore no guarantees for their university or work placements.

Although last year’s boycott officially ended in the autumn, College Employers Scotland (CES) reported that it wasn’t until the end of January 2024 that all the affected results made it into the system.

It’s a situation that university students also faced last year, and left students across higher and further education concerned that their degrees were being “devalued”.

Despite the potential impact on their results, however, student groups have proven largely supportive of college lecturers during the current dispute.

Rather than press lecturers to accept a deal they don’t want, student groups have repeatedly spoken out about the need for the Scottish Government to act.

Read more: 'If education is a priority this government has a funny way of showing it'

The current college pay dispute is the latest in a long line of heated negotiations that have lasted for more than a decade.

Recently, these fights have played out against a backdrop of consistently declining funding from the Scottish Government. The most recent budget cut college funding by £32.7 million and contributed to a real terms cut of 8.5% since 2021.

Read more: Union and employers lobby support for 'chronically underfunded' college sector

This puts more pressure on colleges to make savings. As a result, staff costs weigh heavily on each institution and leaders say they are running out of other options for cuts.

A recent Audit Scotland report found that staff costs account for roughly 70% of the college sector’s total expenses, and that percentage is likely to grow.

CES and EIS-FELA have both separately called on the Scottish Government to restore funding, and have even spoken with government officials together, there has yet to be a full, public effort to join together and help fund a better deal.