From education to employment

Union steps in to negotiate new package

Staff at North Hertfordshire College have sidestepped voluntary redundancies and pay cuts after union leaders successfully negotiated a short term protected-salary deal.

The University and College Union (UCU) was called in to help after management executives at the college were forced to restructure in light of a change in government policy, diverting funds into focusing on young people and developing adult skills, resulting in significant budget cuts for other adult learning.

According to the union, 37 managers were invited to apply for 21 management posts. The unsuccessful applicants were then given a choice: to take up a position with a lower salary or accept an enhanced redundancy package. Six of the unsuccessful applicants were unable to take the redundancy package, and the UCU were eventually contacted to negotiate a new pay deal.

Under the terms of the deal, following extensive consultation between the UCU, college Principal and the college corporation board, staff would have their current salaries protected for an agreed period, get new job titles and keep some of their higher-level responsibilities.

“This college, like others in the area, found itself facing a financial squeeze due to new government funding priorities for further education”, explains Liz Martins, UCU regional official for further education in Anglia. “These staff have worked hard to get where they are and of course they have bills to pay, so taking a pay cut would have been very difficult and demoralising for them”.

Restructuring has led to an immediate positive impact on staff pensions and morale, union officials report. While the new pay-deal does impinge on the college’s cost-cutting agenda and raises the overall budget, the amounts involved are described as “modest and affordable”.

“We applaud North Hertfordshire College for treating its staff with dignity and respect by doing all it could to protect the affected staff from the impact of immediate pay cuts”, continued Liz.

And College Principal Fintan Donohue was equally upbeat about the deal. “The Board of Corporation has been highly supportive in adopting a strategy designed to strengthen financial health while sustaining the morale and motivation of the workforce”, he explained.

“The Board is committed to modernising pay and because we took timely action to reduce overall operating costs we have been able to award a 3.5% pay rise to the whole workforce for 2006/2007. We are very pleased to have resolved the outstanding redundancy issues to the satisfaction of UCU, the individuals and the corporation”.

Vijay Pattni.

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