SOME classes were cancelled at Forth Valley College in Alloa this week as lecturers and employers remain locked in a national dispute over a cost-of-living pay uplift.

On Tuesday, February 5, members of the EIS-FELA trade union gathered early at the campus along with many other colleagues across the country as negotiations with the Colleges Scotland Employers' Association broke down.

It was the second day of industrial action this year, following on from the first one mid-January.

While classes were completely cancelled then, the college said this time it was "able to offer classes where possible".

The trade union is fighting for a cost-of-living pay uplift, saying its members have not received an increase of this nature since April 2016.

Building its own argument, Colleges Scotland refers to a harmonisation uplift agreement from 2017, which equalised pay and which did mean an increase for some as there had been huge differences in lecturers' salaries.

An EIS-FELA spokesperson told the Advertiser on the day: "There had previously been an almost £10,000 difference between certain lecturers doing the same job all over the country.

"That's completely different from a cost-of-living rise, the employers are portraying us as being greedy asking for more money, when in fact some people have been underpaid for decades.

"What we are asking for is in-line with public sector pay policy. Our support staff colleagues settled on a cost-of-living rise, which was not linked to harmonised pay and we don't see why we should be treated different."

Employers say finances are tight and that any pay offer has to be offset by cuts elsewhere.

John Gribben, director of employment services at Colleges Scotland, said: "As we have repeatedly said to the EIS-FELA, the pay increases over 2017-20 from harmonisation are directly connected to the current additional pay offer on the table over the same three-year period and cannot be separated – a pay rise is a pay rise, irrespective of where it comes from.

"College lecturers in Scotland are by far the best paid across the UK and they have rejected a combined pay deal that would increase national average pay by over 12 per cent, or more than £4,000, from 2017-20."

However, EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan added: "The 2017 NJNC Agreement delivered harmonised pay for lecturers throughout the college sector and some national conditions of service.

"It established equal pay for equal work and was not a cost-of-living pay uplift. Seeking to conflate the issues is disingenuous, at best."

The two sides are planning more talks, but further strikes are scheduled for Wednesday, March 6, and Thursday, March 21.