From education to employment

Latest Offer Under Consideration by Newly Formed Education Union

The saga continues, it would seem, writes Jethro Marsh for FE News.

If someone were to discuss the continuing uncertainty over the state of affairs regarding pay deals in education in general, and in Further Education in particular, it is easy to believe that the opening address would be delivered in a rich sonorous voice dwelling on the troubles faced by members of the University and College Union (UCU). Perhaps James Earl Jones’s melodious undulations could paint a sufficiently rich tapestry of sound to weave a magical hanging rug depicting the story so far.

Opening Gambits

It might begin something like this:

“Since the dawn (elongating this word, naturally ““ generally, it would be useful to almost physically bounce gently up and down in time with the rhythm of his speech) of Time, the twin questions of justice and fairness for all have plagued human society. Our ancestors would squabble over the price of Mastodon hide and the just compensation for their long trek over the savannah, just as today public sector professionals of all trades and sizes demand a fair slice of the funding pie”¦

Reading back over that, perhaps Richard E. Grant would prove to be a more apt recruit. Still, the point remains; the settlement of the pay for teachers and lecturers in the FE sector has rumbled on for years, and faces the latest D ““ Day when the newest offering from the Association of Colleges (AoC) is placed before them for deliberation today.

A Stroll Down Memory Lane”¦

It might even prove to be a prudent move to review the recent history of the pay debate. For example, it is very important to recognise that any decision made today will only be as binding as the implementation of the agreement. The previous pay deal, which was agreed by both parties following lengthy discussions, foundered on the rocks of non ““ delivery. Approximately 50% of colleges have failed to implement this last pay deal fully, to date, which surely calls into question whether the next one will be implemented either.

Colleges, of course, are facing tougher and tougher times in terms of budgetary balancing acts. The pot of money coming from the Government is almost at its peak capacity, and funding priorities will dictate that money must be channelled into specific areas of training and education. It is important for all sides in the debate to realise that there are certain limitations inherent in dealing with finite amounts of money. Essentially, a pre ““ requisite for economic success: “Don”t spend what you don”t have.”


Leaving to one side the fact that our credit card ““ obsessed culture scarcely seems to listen to such truisms, what lies ahead? The pay deal on offer in May ““ offering a 2% rise paid on the 1st of August 2006, followed by a 0.9% increase paid on the 1st of February 2007 ““ was deemed to be promising enough for the then ““ union for University and College Lecturers (NATFHE) to call off a proposed strike to allow a further round of negotiations.

The latest round of talks between the two sides was held this week, on Wednesday, and the FE committee for UCU will look at the new deal on offer today. Whilst it seems likely to have fallen far short of the desired increase that UCU seek, of approximately 7%, it will certainly mark an improvement from the initial “slap in the face” (as described by Barry Lovejoy, Head of Colleges for NATFHE and now UCU) offer of 1.5%. What remains to be seen is how much closer to 7% the colleges are able and willing to go.

The University lecturers recently called off a very unpopular strike (amongst students, certainly) following a pay offer of approximately 13% – but that is Higher Education, and not Further. Hopefully, an agreement can be reached that will accomplish a number of things. It will give lecturers greater parity in pay with their counterparts beyond FE. It will do so without bankrupting colleges (after all, without a college, there would be no jobs or pay anyway). And also, it will remember that the relationship is a triangle not a two way street, with three sides; lecturers, employers, and students.

Jethro Marsh

What would Lulu say? Find out in From the FE Trenches!

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