Hundreds of lecturers from across the nation descended upon the concourses outside the International Conference Centre (ICC) to protest the pay gap between FE College lecturers and their school counterparts.
The day was also marked by strikes across the country as a large number of the 26,000 FE members of the University and College Lecturers” Union (NATFHE) picketed their institutions. And, although the debate has some way left to run, Barry Lovejoy, the Head of Colleges for NATFHE, was pleased with the turnout and also at the news that some strikes had not taken place following conciliatory moves from individual colleges.
Bussing Them In
The college lecturers outside the conference venue were handing out leaflets in the morning to make sure that everyone was aware of the issues raised. Amongst the information contained therein are the details of the proposal that was agreed for 2003 ““ 2005, which was set to reduce the 10% pay gap between schools and FE colleges. It claimed that: “as of today, 180 of the 281 FE colleges have still refused to implement this deal.”
In addition, there is unhappiness at the new proposal from the Association of Colleges (AoC) which will offer a pay rise of just 2.8% as opposed to the 3.2% that was received by school teachers this year. In the case, for instance, of the Newcastle FE College, lecturers were sent notices of dismissal in the same letter that offered them new contracts on worse conditions. These same lecturers had only weeks before been honoured for their excellence at a Governor’s Dinner.
Barry Lovejoy Speaks to FE News
The Head of Colleges for NATFHE, Barry Lovejoy, spoke from his position beside the protestors on the brisk November morning. He stated that NATFHE were “delighted” by the turnout, which had seen some 300 NATFHE members from across the country bussed in to join the protest. This was in addition to the individual protests across the country.
Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Education, was presented with a question regarding Government involvement in pay negotiations with lecturers and colleges, and responded that this was a matter for individual colleges to deal with. Mr. Lovejoy, however, believes that this could be better solved with Government involvement, citing the example of Wales where local Government is involved in pay deal settlements. He also stated that, as yet, the AoC had made no comment on the NATFHE protest before their doorstep.
The Hidden Pay Gap
However, it must be noted that several colleges across the country did not experience the expected strikes. Mr. Lovejoy welcomed this, stating that this was the result of individual colleges negotiating with their lecturers. Mark White, from Tower Hamlets College in London, told a different story, where some lecturers did not join the strike because they quite simply could not afford to.
There remains the untouched issue of pay within the FE sector. For instance, a leading FE stakeholder has commented that, whilst NATFHE state that the starting salary for an FE lecturer is about £20,283, a work based learning assessor can expect to receive some 25% less, with the expected starting salary of £15,000. The lack of parity with sectors beyond FE is a matter of concern; the inequalities within are surely of greater and more immediate concern.
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