ENGLAND'S colleges faces a wave of lecturers' strikes as it emerges that more than 40 per cent have failed to implement agreed pay increases.
Talks on pay in further education are coming under increasing strain as colleges demonstrate, in word and deed, that they will not be bound by national agreements.
Natfhe, the lecturers' union, says 41 per cent of colleges have failed to implement the 3.5 per cent pay deal for 20023 which led to lecturers suspending industrial action last year. Nearly half gave nothing at all and the rest increases of below 3.5 per cent.
Around 90 per cent of colleges paid the previous year's increase in full.
Natfhe says colleges appear to be going backwards just when, in national negotiations on pay "modernisation", the parties hoped they would be moving forwards.
An Association of Colleges' consultation exercise on modernising pay has revealed that many colleges believe a national model would be "inappropriate", and that salaries should be set according to local labour markets.
Barry Lovejoy, head of colleges at Natfhe, said the employers' position could mean the failure of the pay talks and a return to strikes.
He told FE Focus: "We will give full support to any college which finds itself with no implementation either this year or indeed next year if an offer is made. This would include support for anything up to and including strike action.
"There is increasing tension between implementation and local flexibility.
There is no way we are going to sign up to an agreement which doesn't take us any further forward. These tensions have been escalating throughout our talks and we are concerned about that."
An AoC report, Leadership in Lifelong Learning; Modernising Pay Arrangements, based on its consultation with employers, shows colleges will continue to assert their independence.
Local labour markets and the financial circumstances of individual colleges will continue to be the driving factors - not a national pay model, whatever is agreed in talks between the AoC and the unions.
Colleges, says the report, agree pay must be used to resolve the "recruitment and retention crisis". There has been a 25 per cent increase in teaching vacancies and a 44 per cent increase in management and support vacancies in the past year.
But, it adds: "Delegates saw issues of differing local labour markets, various existing pay structures and processes at the individual level, which meant that nationally-imposed models were inappropriate to the modernising pay agenda.
"While delegates recognised and supported the need to improve low pay, they felt it preferable to determine a suitable starting point according to their local conditions."
Sue Dutton, deputy chief executive of the AoC, said: "What we are trying to develop is not a prescriptive solution for colleges."
The report says most colleges support the "total reward" concept, explained by management guru Michael Armstrong, which involves "both the non-financial and financial aspects of rewards, to be considered as an integrated and coherent whole."
Mr Armstrong argues that what he calls the "transactional" elements of reward, such as pay and benefits, can be supplemented with "relational" elements such as "learning and development initiatives and the work environment."
Natfhe says it will oppose "total reward" if colleges use it to justify smaller pay increases.