Scotland’s largest union for teachers and lecturers has opened a statutory industrial action ballot for its members in higher education institutions.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said on Monday that a below-inflation pay rise offer of 1% from employers had been rejected.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said lecturers had endured pay awards of less than the rate of inflation for the past three years.
The EIS has said it intends to work collaboratively with sister unions in the Higher Education (HE) sector on a programme of industrial action commencing in October
Mr Flanagan said: "We are not prepared to accept a fourth year of real-terms pay decline. The EIS estimates that HE lecturers have suffered real-terms pay cuts of over 12% or around £5000 during the past three years, and this is completely unacceptable.
"Scotland is proud of its higher education sector, and the fact that it sends such a large percentage of young people to universities and other higher education establishments. Our excellent lecturing staff are absolutely essential to this success, so it is right that they should be appropriately and fairly remunerated for the valuable teaching and research work that they do."
Mr Flanagan added: "As pay in the Higher Education sector is negotiated at the UK level, it is important that we work with our sister trade unions across the UK in a co-ordinated campaign on lecturers’ pay. I would urge all EIS members working in higher education establishments to use their vote in this ballot, and to vote yes for industrial action in defence of their pay and their standard of living."
The EIS ballot opened on Monday and runs until October 10. Should HE members back industrial action, the EIS intends to commence a programme from October 23.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The Scottish Government has invested significant funding in our universities and colleges, and we appreciate the hard work and dedication of staff in the education sector.
"As independent bodies, pay is a matter for institutions, staff and the appropriate unions, and we hope a solution can be found which avoids any disruption to students learning."