The future of national bargaining for Scotland's further education lecturers is in the balance, with staff being balloted on a new deal allowing some conditions to be negotiated locally.
The Scottish Further and Higher Education Association is recommending rejection of the deal, on the grounds that the 2.5 per cent pay increase which is contingent on accepting the package does not compensate for the erosion in conditions.
But there is confusion in the Educational Institute of Scotland, with no official recommendation on the ballot. Joe Eyre, salaries convener of the EIS college lecturers' association, has called for a vote against the deal. But Fred Forrester, the union's depute chief secretary, has warned that such a vote might lead to the end of all national negotiations.
The Employers' Association is likely to pull out of all national bargaining if the package is rejected. It has offered a pay award backdated to April, with a Pounds 200 one-off payment, payable once local negotiations are successfully concluded. The proposed deadline is mid-December.
National bargaining would cover contractual hours for the working week, annual leave and annual class contact, salary grades, part-time rates, maternity leave, sick leave and periods of notice, while the distribution of class-contact hours, initial placement on salary scales, disciplinary and grievance procedures, and post-entry training would all be negotiated locally.
Some members of the CLA strongly oppose a potential departure from the "Blue Book", the 64-page document on pay and conditions of service drawn up when the colleges were run by local authorities.
Mr Forrester said that in England and Wales, where national negotiations had been abandoned, conditions imposed were significantly worse.