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Pay Talk Dispute Between AoC and NATFHE Continues

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Following the recent pay dispute between the Association of Colleges (AoC) and the Universities and College Lecturers” Union, NATFHE, the Further Education Committee of National Executive (FEC) has agreed that a two-day strike will be held in further education colleges on the 2 and 3 May.

The strike will be commencing the week before the second round of pay talks is due to take place. The AoC’s pay rise offer of a mere 1.5% raised fury among Further Education Unions. However, the AoC claimed that colleges were unable to pay anything more due to a perceived climate of financial uncertainty. For NATFHE members, acceptance of the offer would have meant falling a further 1.4% behind schoolteachers over the next two years. Schoolteachers will receive a 2.5% increase in September 2006. All members in colleges that were balloted for strike action in November last year will be instructed to support this action.

AoC Response

Sue Dutton, the AoC’s Deputy Chief Executive, had this to say on the NATFHE resonse. “AoC is very disappointed that NATFHE have decided on this premature and disruptive course of action so early in negotiations,” she said. “after just one meeting of the National Joint Forum. AoC has yet to receive notification of the ballot arrangements and is still in consultation with its membership regarding affordability, given the difficult funding climate.

“That process will continue until 9 May,” she continued, “when we reconvene talks with NATFHE and the other unions of the NJF. Contrary to NATFHE’s claims, AoC and member colleges are very conscious of the impact of pay on colleges” ability to recruit and retain good staff.”

Union Comment

Barry Lovejoy, NATFHE’s head of colleges, expressed the concerns of his members, saying: “A “healthy college” is one where staff morale and motivation are high. A 1.5% pay rise offer sends out the message to staff that they are not worth investing in. We have no option but to send out a robust response that college staff will not be treated like this.”

With the two sides a great distance apart in their respective positions, the dispute is sure to continue. On one hand, it is vital that colleges offer their lecturers a fair pay increase and respect pay agreements if they are to retain the best staff and hence fulfil the Governments mission for FE, to drive forward the skill agenda. On the other hand, that agenda will collapse to the ground if indefinite strike action comes to pass.

Maria Vitale

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