From education to employment

University and College Lecturers” Union Wins 2.9% Offer, but Looks for Further Improvemen

The latest round of negotiations for a new pay deal for Further Education College lecturers has seen the Association of Colleges (AoC) offer NATFHE, the University and College Lecturers” Union, a deal of 2.9%.

The original offer of 1.5% was deemed by NATFHE to be a “slap in the face” for lecturers seeking a closing of the pay gap between themselves and their school-based colleagues. Although the offer of 2.9% seems on the face of it to be a remarkable step forward, considering the economic uncertainty cited as the cause of the original 1.5% offer, it seems further talks are needed before a satisfactory agreement is reached.

Paying for Pay

NATFHE began negotiations for this latest pay agreement with the knowledge of their members” discontent at previous situations plain for all the world to see. Many Colleges have still not implemented the pay agreements reached two years ago, which led to a number of one day strikes including a rally held outside the AoC Annual Conference in Birmingham to coincide with the visit of then-Education Secretary Ruth Kelly MP.

This year’s initial offer of only 1.5%, below both the rate of inflation and below the pay offer made to teachers in schools, was derided as a “slap in the face” by NATFHE. The proposed national strike of FE College lecturers failed to materialise as NATFHE decided to postpone the industrial action until after listening to the AoC’s latest offer.

The Offer and The Response

The negotiations took place on Tuesday 9th of May, and saw the AoC make an initial pay offer of a 2.5% increase. After this was rejected by NATFHE, the offer was increased to a total of 2.5%, with 2.0% paid on the 1st of August 2006 and a further 0.9% paid on the 1st of February 2007. NATFHE remained unconvinced by the increased offer, saying that not only would it actually represent a worse offer for members than the 2.5% deal (in cash terms in the first year) but also that the gap with school teachers was not being addressed.

Speaking after the negotiations, Barry Lovejoy, the Head of Colleges for NATFHE, highlighted the issue of addressing the pay gap, saying: “We”re pleased that the employers are moving in the right direction but there is still room for improvement. We cannot possibly accept an offer that leaves college lecturers trailing behind schoolteachers.

“With the recent government proposals for compulsory professional development for all further education staff,” Mr. Lovejoy continued, “development and training issues are of particular importance. It is vital that we aim to secure an agreement that ensures adequate time and facilities, together with safeguards against increased workloads.”

Whilst this is a significant increase in pay when compared to the initial offer, it falls a considerable distance short of the initial pay proposal put forward by NATFHE of a 7% increase. Further talks are planned for June, shortly before the AoC Summer Conference. If the description of the initial offer as a “slap in the face” is accepted, then it would seem this latest offer is merely holding a steak pressed against the slap mark to bring down the swelling.

Jethro Marsh

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