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5 February 2016, 07:18
The Scottish Government has been urged to intervene in a pay dispute between college bosses and a trade union.
The EIS teaching union demanded Education Secretary Angela Constance takes "immediate action'' to prevent Colleges Scotland from imposing a deal on staff.
Final arrangements for a ballot of union members over the deal are to be discussed at a union meeting on Friday afternoon.
Ahead of that, EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan warned that "this intended imposition by colleges of a previously rejected pay offer will simply anger lecturers and ensure an even greater vote for strike action''.
College staff have been offered a a wage rise of 1% but the union wants action to tackle the wide variation in pay across the sector.
Mr Flanagan said: "Management have refused to consider any moves towards such a set of national pay scales and the principle of equal pay across the sector.
"Indeed, the imposition of this change in pay will increase differentials between colleges rather than reduce them.
"This proposed action exposes the management side's lack of any meaningful commitment to the process of national bargaining.''
He added: "The EIS calls upon the Cabinet Secretary, Angela Constance, to reiterate the Scottish Government's commitment to national pay bargaining in the college sector and to take immediate action to ensure that publicly-funded college employers comply with government policies.''
The union is about to begin staging a statutory ballot for industrial action, Mr Flanagan said, with final arrangements to be discussed by the executive of its Further Education Lecturers' Association.
Its call for the Education Secretary to intervene was backed by the Scottish Greens, with education spokeswoman and Holyrood Highlands and Islands candidate Isla O'Reilly stating: "For our colleges to keep providing high-quality education, staff have to be properly supported to do their jobs.
"With the mounting pressure on wages and crumbling trust between workers and management, disregarding the national bargaining process is simply unacceptable.
"It's time for the Scottish Government to take responsibility over the hard-working staff who run our colleges.
"I urge Angela Constance to step in and ensure that college leadership gets back around the table and a fairer pay deal is agreed on by all parties involved.''
Colleges Scotland chief executive Shona Struthers said: "The recommendation to award the pay rise was not taken lightly and was taken with the best financial interests of the sector in mind.
"We want to ensure lecturing staff do not suffer detriment in comparison to other staff across the sector. The three support staff unions have accepted the same pay rise of 1%.
"Our preference would have been to reach a negotiated settlement with the EIS as we have with the support staff to ensure we bring the sector together with the same pay deal.
"The decision was further motivated by a real prospect that if money is not utilised by March 2016, there is a significant risk that this will be lost to the sector, due to the financial year end.
"I'd reiterate that the 1% pay rise is fair and reasonable, and in line with public sector pay policy and above inflation which stood at 0.2% in December 2015.''
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "As employers, decisions on pay are a matter for colleges, though we note Colleges Scotland is recommending that colleges implement the 15-16 pay offer - consistent with public sector pay - for all staff.
"We remain committed to national bargaining. We recognise there's been a willingness on both sides to move forward and look forward to continued progress. In particular, we expect colleges who have not already done so to agree to sign up.''