Lecturers at Fife College set up picket lines first thing this morning, sparking off a series of strikes over pay which could last until the summer.
Staff at St Brycedale, Nairn and Stenton campuses have joined the EIS-FELA industrial action which is calling for a fair rate of pay for all lecturers across Scotland.
Despite a last minute plea from Colleges Scotland chief executive Shona Sturthers to call off the strike, the first of 32 planned strike days went ahead.
Ms Struthers said: “Over the past few weeks real progress has been made, and we could be on the cusp of finding a viable solution.
“We can deliver a sustainable pay increase now, to everyone. We will then take decisive steps towards tackling variances in pay and conditions across the sector and modernising in the longer term.
“As such, we urge EIS to call off its planned strikes that will affect students at a critical time of year – the approach to exam season.”
However at a recent statutory ballot carried out by EIS for FELA members, 88 per cent voted for industrial action and John Kelly, EIS-FELA president said he hoped the wider community would understand the reasons for the strike.
“The Scottish Government and college management promised a return to national bargaining in the college sector, and the creation of fair national pay scales for lecturers.
“After a year and a half of negotiations, neither of these commitments has been met and colleges now intend to impose a pay settlement that would widen, rather than narrow, pay inequity across the sector.
“We seek a fair pay settlement and delivery of the promises that were made to lecturers.”
Speaking at the St Brycedale campus, Alison Davidson, EIS branch secretary, said Fife College lecturers had received a lot of support from students.
“They have been very sympathetic and supportive,” she said.
“Obviously they are concerned that strike action is planned until the end of June but hopefully it doesn’t come to that and a settlement will be reached.”
David Torrance, MSP for Kirkcaldy, said he was also hoping for a compromise.
“I hope the issue is resolved as quickly as possible and that a good relationship can be established between the college and the staff,” he said.
“More importantly though are the students who are affected. This is a big year for a lot of them, particularly those who might be in their second year and are about to sit exams.
“It’s hard enough for them without having to work around strikes so it’s beneficial for both parties to come up with a resolution to this issue.”
A spokesman for Fife College said they were “perplexed and disappointed” with the strike.
Some of the Fife College staff will travel to Edinburgh this afternoon to jointhe EIS-FELA lobby at the Scottish Parliament.