TALKS between colleges and lecturers are set to take place tomorrow in hopes further strike action next week over pay can be avoided.

Teaching was suspended at Forth Valley College in Alloa earlier this month as a programme of industrial action was called by the Educational Institute of Scotland Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA).

In a dispute with Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association over cost of living pay and complications arising from a past equal pay or salary harmonisation settlement, the union put in the diary next Tuesday, February 5, for a second day of strikes.

The two sides already sat down at the negotiating table last Thursday and are due to meet again tomorrow, Thursday January 31, in hopes the planned walkout will be suspended.

Pam Currie, EIS-FELA president, said: “We welcome the fact that talks are finally taking place, over a month after we submitted a revised claim, and we reiterate our disappointment that the Employers Association waited until after the first day of strike action before starting negotiations.

"Management have finally acknowledged that equal pay and cost of living are separate and distinct and always have been.

“However, we are disappointed that the new offer from management would leave our members worse off than the original offer.

“The original offer was significantly lower than public sector pay policy across the three years and was rejected overwhelmingly by our members some months ago."

She added she now expects bosses to return with “a meaningful offer” tomorrow, threatening an escalation in industrial action if they fail to do so.

On the other hand, John Gribben of Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association, argued lecturers in Scotland “are by far the best paid across the UK” while finances “remain tight for colleges”.

He said: “The financial envelope hasn’t changed as this revised offer would still cost the college sector £10million, but the offer has been restructured in a way that should be more appealing to the EIS-FELA.

“The substantial pay rises which the majority of lecturers are receiving from salary harmonisation over 2017-20 cannot be separated from the additional pay offer covering the same time period.

“Finances remain tight for colleges and they must make cuts elsewhere to fund this £10m pay offer.”