PLANNED strike action by college lecturers was suspended last night after the union and management reached agreement in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said it was a “significant victory” for its members as Colleges Scotland had agreed to “honour the deal” made in March last year on pay and conditions.

Members walked out on strike several times in recent weeks as part of an escalating programme of action.

A further three days of strikes had been due to go ahead next week.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Following a further round of talks, we have reached a position where Colleges Scotland have agreed to honour the deal.

“This is a significant victory for EIS Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) members and it means that the employers will move immediately to implement Phase one of the March 2016 pay agreement.

“As a result, all future planned strike action is suspended. EIS-FELA members are thanked for their magnificent support and solidarity throughout this campaign, which has been focused since the start on making management honour the deal.

“The members’ action has secured this win, which will see equal pay delivered across the sector and create equitable common terms and conditions for the sector moving forward.

“This success by lecturers will also inspire other public sector workers fighting for fair pay.”

Lecturers had been due to go on strike on from Tuesday until Thursday inclusive next week.

In a joint statement, EIS and Colleges Scotland said: “Following a period of intensive negotiations, agreement has been reached between the employers and the EIS.

“This has led to the immediate suspension of strike action by the EIS and will enable college management to implement the March 2016 Agreement.

“After the meeting, Colleges Scotland and the EIS welcomed this breakthrough and are delighted that disruption to student learning has been brought to an end.

“Both sides expressed the hope that this would provide a sound foundation for the college sector moving forward.”

A Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association spokesman said: “We are pleased that we’ve reached an agreement, subject to ratification, which not only means an end to the strikes but also, crucially, ensures that colleges can return to business as usual.

“This is a positive step forward for everyone involved.

The dispute is the most prolonged of its kind for 30 years in the education sector.

The college employers had insisted the national pay award must be linked to the agreement on terms and conditions, but the EIS said the two deals should be separate.

The employer side wanted 24 hours per week of core teaching time for the majority of lecturers, while the EIS argued for 22 hours.

College managements had said existing staff could maintain their current entitlement of 64 days per year but new staff would only get 56 days.

The union wanted 64 days per year for all lecturers.

Earlier this week, Education Secretary John Swinney intervened to appoint a mediator, John Sturrock QC, between the two sides but had emphasised that a settlement would not be imposed.

Swinney had said strikes were leaving students “at real risk in this crucial end-of-year period”, something he said was “not acceptable”.