COLLEGE lecturers have been offered a flat cash pay settlement in a bid to halt looming strike action.

College Employers Scotland, which represents all college employers in Scotland, has made a “full and final” pay offers to support staff unions as well as the EIS-Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) that represents academic staff.

However, college chiefs said that “painful decisions” would have to be made on jobs and courses to fund the £51 million pay rise.

The sector saw cuts of almost £52 million in this academic year as well as the removal of £26 million in funding for this academic year.

Lecturers have been offered a £2,000 pay rise for 2022-23 and a further £1,500 in 2023-24 providing a cumulative £3,500 uplift for all college staff over two years.

Employers say this would proportionately benefit staff on lower pay, which has been one of the key principles throughout the pay negotiations.

This is the full and final pay offer in the ongoing dispute.

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But EIS-FELA described the offer as “unacceptable”, and said it represented a real terms pay cut.

Gavin Donoghue, director of College Employers Scotland, said employers “simply cannot afford” to go beyond the proposals.

He said: “The £51 million cost of delivering them will already require painful decisions to be made on jobs and courses.

“We urge our trade union colleagues to be pragmatic and take the employers’ offer to their members for consideration, so that colleges can get back to providing the world-class learning experience that students rightly expect and demand.

“Employers have requested that support staff unions take this pay offer to their members for consideration, as it would equate to an average 11% pay increase for staff over the two-year period, and even more for those on lower pay.

“The employers have also made a number of commitments in relation to the support staff claim, and which the trade unions are currently considering.

“This pay offer would provide a £3,500 cumulative pay uplift for the lecturers and would mean college lecturers in Scotland maintain their position as the highest paid college lecturers across the UK.

“Employers are now requesting that the EIS-FELA takes this offer to their members and pause their resulting boycott, which is disrupting the education of college students, as matter of good will.”

EIS general secretary Andrea Bradley said, “College lecturers have been waiting since September 2022 – now nine whole months amidst a cost-of-living crisis – for a pay award.

“It is unacceptable that after all this time, college employers could only table a marginally improved offer that still amounts to a significant real terms pay cut.

“The Scottish Government simply cannot stand idly by allowing this situation to persist. It must respond positively to EIS-FELA’s call for emergency funding to address the deepening crisis in further education.”

On Thursday, college lecturers held a rally outside the Scottish Parliament calling for an end to the “crisis” in further education.

Last week, the union called for the Scottish Government to step in with additional funding to bail out the sector, with some colleges facing compulsory redundancies to make ends meet.