From education to employment

FE Members of NATFHE Vote for Walk Out on November 16th

More than 26,000 Further Education lecturers are set to strike across the country following a membership ballot conducted today.

The members of NATFHE, the UK’s leading University and College Lecturers” Union, have voted in favour of this action in response to the continuing funding and pay crisis. The walk out will take place on the 16th of November, following which further action will be considered. This action is being taken in protest at the disparity between Higher Education pay levels and those in FE colleges, and will affect many of the 3 million adults engaged in learning within the FE sector.

NATFHE Decide on Action

Speaking outside the London headquarters of NATFHE in London, their Head of Colleges Barry Lovejoy discussed the decision further. He stated that this action was part of the overall strategy for gaining reform and pointed out that many of the members both intended to lobby and had lobbied the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruth Kelly MP. The decision to strike, falling as it does during the Association of Colleges (AoC) conference in Birmingham, will surely see Ruth Kelly come in for some touch questions at the conference, quite apart from the much anticipated Foster Report‘s findings being made public.

There is a plan to organise a rally outside the conference venue to coincide with the visit of Ruth Kelly, and Barry Lovejoy expressed the situation as NATFHE see it. NATFHE claim 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.

Engine Running on Empty

The lecturers are also unhappy that the previous year’s pay deal had not been honoured in 65% of colleges. A two-year deal offering a 3% increase to all lecturers in 2003/4 followed by a second 3% increase in 2004/5 was agreed between NATFHE and the AoC. In the second year, the deal also included the introduction of a new, shorter pay scale that would give further increases. This deal would mean the maximum salary for qualified lecturers would be raised to £30,705, and the starting salary increased to £20,283 for qualified teaching staff.

Speaking after the announcement (the vote itself saw 71% vote in favour of action), Mr. Lovejoy said: “Our members are angry and resentful that whilst more and more is expected of them, their pay is slipping further and further behind schoolteachers. Given a choice between colleges and schools, it is not hard to see which new recruits would opt for. With 50% of the further education workforce due to retire within a decade, this is a disaster waiting to happen.”

He concluded by pointing out that the Government’s statement that colleges are the wave of the future was at odds with this pay deal decision, saying: “The government tells us that further education is the “engine of a successful, dynamic economy” so why does it leave our colleges running on empty?”

Jethro Marsh

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