From education to employment

Unions Welcome Susan Birch’s £25,000 Employment Tribunal Win

NATFHE, the University and College Lecturers” Union, and the Trades Union Congress (TUC), have both welcomed the announcement that a part time lecturer has been awarded a settlement payment and a transfer to full time status.

The ruling seems likely to have ramifications for millions of part time workers across education, retail, building trades and hospitality who often work at least as hard as their full ““ time counterparts but are lower paid and passed over for career and personal development schemes. This was the state of affairs with Susan, who after seven years at Leeds Metropolitan University, was earning up to £10,000 per year less than her full time counterparts in spite of working longer hours.

Susan was supported by NATFHE throughout this campaign, as the union have a long history of supporting their membership in demanding equality and parity in pay and opportunity. Speaking of her win, Susan Birch said: “It has been three years of immense pressure, but I simply could not accept such a patently unfair situation. Litigation is not for the faint-hearted or those acting alone, but I had the support of my union NATFHE, for which I am immensely grateful.”

United Union Delight

Responding to the announcement, NATFHE general secretary Paul Mackney said: “The case establishes that part-time lecturers are entitled to equal, pro-rata pay rates to full-time colleagues. The settlement shows that the employer saw the justice of the case and that the only equitable solution was to give Susan Birch a full-time job with a record amount of compensation for the difficulties she has suffered.

“This will bring confidence and hope to thousands of badly paid lecturers in further and higher education,” he continued. “Over 40% of university teaching staff are on hourly-paid contracts. Many experience poverty pay, job insecurity, and poor working conditions ““ often not even having a desk. The FE sector also depends heavily on a vast army of hourly-paid, part-time staff, many on exploitative contracts. We want to see part-time staff employed on fractional contracts with equivalent rates of pay and conditions to full-time colleagues. This victory is one more step towards achieving that.”

The TUC were equally delighted at the news. TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: “This result should send a warning to all university employers and employers beyond the higher education world not to be tempted into treating part time workers in a shoddy and unfair way. NATFHE must be congratulated for bringing the case and showing that unions are determined to win a better deal for part time workers everywhere.”

Further Education lecturers are currently laboring under a system of fundamental imbalance in funding, with assessors and verifiers in a similar position. NATFHE have campaigned for a fairer funding package for pay deals, and in the past year have organized a series of local and national actions and petitions in an attempt to bring colleges back to the negotiating table. In many cases, agreed pay deals have yet to be realized, even eighteen months on. It would seem, if this award is anything to go by, that there is light at the end of the tunnel for NATFHE and for lecturers in their quest for fair funding and fair pay.

Jethro Marsh

Will this bring funding and pay in line with expectation and demand? Tell us in the FE Blog

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