Below-inflation pay deal accepted

But union promises industrial action to right past wrongs

Joseph Lee

Lecturers have voted to accept a below-inflation pay rise.

But the University and College Union (UCU) has pledged to target with industrial action all colleges that have refused to pay previously agreed rises.

Nearly 89 per cent of respondents to a ballot of the union's members voted to accept the 3.2 per cent deal, after a special sector conference voted to recommend it last month.

Although it fell far short of their claim for 6 per cent, the union said the offer was higher than many other public sector deals.

The union claimed that a one-day strike in April this year, which saw teachers, lecturers and support staff act jointly for the first time on pay, had been instrumental in increasing the offer from an initial 2.5 per cent.

Barry Lovejoy, head of further education for the UCU, said: "Our membership has accepted an offer that, although below the current rate of inflation, is one of the strongest in the public sector in this pay round.

"We shall be submitting an early claim for next year, but will now focus hard on those colleges that have disgracefully failed to pay up on a national deal agreed five years ago.

"Lecturers at those institutions are really suffering now the cost of living is soaring."

He said the union would also continue to call for equal pay with school teachers, who receive an estimated 10 per cent more for equivalent work.

With teachers receiving a pay rise of 2.45 per cent last month, this year's 3.2 per cent rise for lecturers slightly narrows the pay gap between schools and colleges.

But because pay deals agreed with the Association of Colleges (AoC) are not binding, many colleges have failed to change pay scales in the past.

According to UCU figures, 48 per cent of colleges have refused to implement the changes agreed in 2004.

The union intends to hold targeted strikes at the institutions that have failed to award the agreed salary increases in previous years.

Members of the UCU and Unison at The Sheffield College went on strike last month over its failure to pay last year's agreed rise.

Evan Williams, head of employment policy at the AoC, said: "We are pleased that all six trade unions have agreed to accept AoC's final pay recommendation.

"This is a good deal for colleges and staff, and it continues to provide for low-paid staff, underpinning their pay with a new minimum pay rate."

He said the dispute with individual colleges over previous pay deals agreed with the AoC was outside the remit of the association.

"While the percentage of colleges implementing pay recommendations has increased over the years, the AoC maintains its position as a body that proposes pay recommendation to members - this role does not extend to enforcement," he said.

The lowest-paid workers will receive an extra boost under the deal, with the minimum hourly rate in colleges rising to Pounds 6.91 an hour - 4.3 per cent more than last year.

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Joseph Lee

Joseph Lee is an award-winning freelance education journalist 

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