A BITTER dispute between college bosses and lecturers over pay looks set to deepen following a third day of strike action.

Staff from the Greenock campuses joined the national walkout yesterday in protest at the offer currently on the table from employers' association Colleges Scotland.

The Educational Institute of Scotland - Further Education Lecturers' Association (EIS-FELA) union claims the deal equates to a two per cent increase over three years and are calling for a 'fair' settlement to cover rises in the cost of living.

Employers argue that the offer is worth on average 12 per cent, or £5,000, over the same period, as well as additional holidays and a reduction in teaching time.

Lecturers across the country held a 24-hour strike for the third time this year after the latest round of talks broke down on Friday.

Mark Gillan, EIS-FELA depute branch secretary at West College Scotland Greenock, said: "Members in both Greenock campuses were standing on picket lines whilst wishing we were inside teaching.

"Following the breakdown of talks last week, renewed talks at the start of this week ended with management seeming intent on stoking the fires of an already bitter dispute.

"We are witnessing a worsening of intransigent and dishonourable behaviour on the other side of the negotiating table."

The union is now set to ballot members on further industrial action short of a strike, including the withdrawal of all goodwill and a boycott that would cause disruption to students' exam results.

Mr Gillan said: "We ask for the support of the public and our students in pushing forward for a resolution to this dispute not only for our members but also for our students.

"No-one wants to be on strike but management has failed with their discordant approach to negotiations, they have failed teaching staff and ultimately failed to avoid disruption for our students.

"Cost of living affects all workers and lecturers are only wanting a reasonable settlement through meaningful negotiations. "Unfortunately, management are causing anger, resentment and a possible escalation of industrial action by not only changing the goal posts but acting in a discreditable manner."

Employers claim Scottish lecturers are the best-paid in the UK and that their offer - worth £12.6 million - will have to be paid for through cutbacks in the college sector.

John Gribben, from Colleges Scotland, said: "Colleges have now made six improved pay offers to try and resolve the pay dispute and end the unnecessary EIS-FELA strikes, but, yet again, they have not accepted our latest offer, nor will they seek the views of their membership. "While the EIS-FELA's intransigence is disappointing, it is not surprising, as they don't engage in meaningful negotiation and are not prepared to make any concessions in return for more money for already very well-paid lecturers."