Today will see the start of the latest round of talks between the Association of Colleges (AoC) and Further Education staff for the approaching academic year.
The FE National Joint Forum, comprised of six unions of which NATFHE, the University and College Lecturers” Union, is a key member, will be seeking a joint claim settlement for a 7% increase for their respective members during the academic year 2006 / 2007. The six unions of the National Joint Forum are NATFHE, UNISON, the Association of College Managers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the TGWU, and the GMB.
The increase proposed will be a significant step towards closing the pay gap that NATFHE feel remains between college lecturers and schoolteachers. This has been put at some 10% before now. The disparity in the levels of pay has been a constant bone of contention , and were the cause of industrial action last year on the part of NATFHE members.
The dispute last year stemmed from the failure of the majority of colleges to honour the two year pay deal agreed between the AoC and NATFHE, which offered a 3% increase to all lecturers in 2003/4 followed by a second 3% increase in 2004/5. There would also be a new shorter pay scale introduced in the course of the second year, which it was hoped would offer further increases. This agreement, if honoured, would leave the maximum salary for a lecturer at £30,705, with the starting salary increased to £20,283 for qualified teaching staff.
This agreement was seen as crucial in closing the pay gap between schoolteachers and their college counterparts, and was initially intended to be implemented by August 2004. Instead of this, last year the AoC offered an alternative pay rise package, of 2.8% in 2005 / 2006. NATFHE rejected this proposal, which led to a one day national strike in November coinciding with the AoC Annual Conference in Birmingham. NATFHE state that, almost 20 months on from the two year deal’s implementation date, less than 50% of colleges have implemented it.
Pay Offer and Discussions
The AoC and NATFHE, therefore, are to meet again across the negotiating table. The AoC are hoping that the discussions will prove to be helpful, with Evan Williams, the AoC Employment Policy Manager, commenting: AoC is hoping for constructive and pragmatic discussions regarding 2006 / 2007 pay claims in light of the current funding situation.”
Barry Lovejoy, the Head of Colleges for NATFHE, said: “We”re now expecting a serious pay offer that compensates for the very disappointing offer we got this year and finally brings us closer to pay parity with schoolteachers. The persistent unfair pay gap is demoralising for our members in colleges and must deter a lot of young teachers from entering further education.”
He continued: “We recognise that colleges face a difficult funding situation but we believe that the national employers can do much more to help colleges honour the pay increases that lecturers were promised 20 months ago.” Further discussions will take place on the 10th of May, but with fears mounting that Adult Education will be cut even further and the prospect of a budgetary tightening of the public sector funding belt, the concern remains that another, possibly more damaging series of national strikes may ensue.
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