Education Secretary Ruth Kelly was accused of deliberately avoiding college lecturers protesting over pay after giving a speech in Birmingham yesterday.
Ms Kelly left the International Convention Centre via a side door as 300 members of lecturers? union Natfhe held a rally at the front.
More than 200 colleges across England, including 30 in the West Midlands, were disrupted as up to 26,000 further education lecturers staged a one- day strike.
They are demanding the Government close a ten per cent pay gap between college lecturers and schoolteachers.
Barry Lovejoy, head of colleges at Natfhe, said he was disappointed that Ms Kelly failed to address the protesters.
?Unfortunately Ruth Kelly chose not to meet us,? he said. ?It?s disappointing that she wasn?t prepared to see the strength of feeling but I?m sure her officials indicated what was going on. I just hope that it doesn?t mean she?s running away from the issue.?
The union said lecturers were angry at a 2.8 per cent pay offer which it claims has only served to widen the pay gap with schoolteachers, who received a 3.2 per cent rise.
It also accused the majority of college principals of failing to observe a nationally-agreed new pay scale to achieve parity with schoolteachers.
?In August last year we agreed a new pay scale which broadly matched schoolteachers,? said Mr Lovejoy. ?But only about a third have instigated it.?
The day of strike action was designed to force those colleges that have not so far implemented the new pay scheme to do so.
The union is also calling on the Government to pump more cash into the sector.
Speaking at the national conference of the Association for Colleges, Ms Kelly said lecturers? pay was largely in the hands of individual colleges and not a matter she could control.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education declined to discuss Ms Kelly?s entrance and exit from the building.
?We don?t discuss security at any point,? she said.