From education to employment

Further Discussions in June as NATFHE Reject Latest Offer of 2.9%

The state of play in pay in FE remains a cloudy issue for college lecturers after the talks between the body representing the colleges, the Association of Colleges (AoC) and the University and College Lecturers” Union NATFHE broke up without agreement last week.

The debate has yet to result in strike action, with last month’s planned walkout cancelled following the AoC’s improved offer that marked a significant improvement from the initial figure of 1.5% regarded as a “slap in the face” by Barry Lovejoy, the Head of Colleges for NATFHE. It would appear that the next month at least will be disruption free, with the next round of negotiations set for the 14th of June (just days before the AoC’s 16 ““ 19 Summer Conference, and a matter of a fortnight after the final NATFHE conference prior to its merger with the AUT).

The AoC Comment

Speaking of the current state of play in negotiations, the Employment Policy Manager for the AoC, Evan Williams, said: “Further constructive negotiations regarding affordability and pay took place yesterday (9th May). Based on extensive consultation of member colleges a proposal of 0.4% above this year’s teachers” settlement (as part of a total cash envelope for the year of 2.5%) was tabled.”

The message was not a universally optimistic one, and Mr. Williams acknowledged that the two positions remain divergent. He said: “There is an inevitable tension between colleges” desire to pay and affordability in the current funding climate. This is a generous proposal given the financial settlements of 06/07 and we are therefore extremely disappointed that it is not being considered seriously by the trade unions at this stage. We are however optimistic that we can reach a mutually acceptable agreement during ongoing negotiations.”

For this pay deal, it would appear that all the sector can do is wait and see whether this will be resolved amicably or will become a drawn out dispute with neither side feeling they are able to move from their positions. In that event, angry statements will surely flow in tandem with ballots for strike action. Such was the effect of the failure of many colleges to honour the 2003 / 2004 pay deal ““ indeed, many have yet to honour this previous deal to date.

It is not necessary to turn to the question of whether or not a strike will occur ““ if the two sides fail to agree, it will hardly be the first such instance in the history of public sector pay negotiations. The question remains, however, just who the strikes will harm. It is hoped that a resolution can be found to act as a salve for all sides; the lecturers walking away happy with their pay deals; the colleges happy with the state of their accounts when honouring them; and the students not suffering any disruption to their education.

Jethro Marsh

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