From education to employment

Deputy Chief Executive of the AoC Predicts Little Disruption to Colleges Through Industrial

Reacting to the announcement by the University and College Lecturers” Union (NATFHE) that their membership had voted to strike over lecturers” pay, the Association of Colleges (AoC) has expressed its regret that matters had reached this stage.

The striking lecturers also plan to descend upon Birmingham on the second day of the AoC Conference next week, and have organised a rally outside the conference venue to coincide with the visit of Ruth Kelly. Barry Lovejoy, the Head of Colleges for NATFHE, claims that the FE lecturers that they represent earn approximately 10% less than their counterparts teaching in schools. Indeed, NATFHE made an attempt to meet the Government halfway, with a proposal for a 7% increase being suggested. The AoC offered a 2% rise from August 1st, 2005, followed by a 0,8% rise from January 2006. NATFHE negotiators rejected that offer and argued it would only worsen the existing 10% pay gap.

The AoC Response

The AoC released a statement from Sue Dutton, the Deputy Chief Executive, in which she said: “It is regrettable that strike action will take place on 16 November, although we do not anticipate major disruption across the college network. In those locations where action will take place, colleges will of course endeavour to minimise disruption to their students.

“The Association of Colleges would argue that this will be as a consequence of colleges experiencing financial difficulties due to the current funding regime,” she continued. “Closing the funding gap between schools sixth forms and colleges would benefit the average college by £600,000 each year for instance. So while colleges greatly value their excellent staff and believe they should be properly rewarded, they continue to struggle to match the market rates set by the schools sector and by industry (where colleges seek to employ lecturers with relevant industrial expertise).”

She did recognise the need for adequate pay to retain and recruit the best staff possible, saying: “If the college sector is to stand at the forefront of the new skills strategy they do need to be able to pay wages that will not only allow them to retain skilled staff but also to attract high calibre graduates and industrial experts.” However, she still regrets NATFHE’s decision, and points out that other FE unions have ratified the current pay deal. She stated: “Ultimately it is unfortunate that NATFHE has decided to highlight this issue with industrial action, while the other four main further education unions have accepted a national pay deal and are working with their local colleges to implement pay modernisation.”

Jethro Marsh

Is NATFHE being unreasonable, or are the AoC intransigent?

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