The recent agreement "modernising" pay arrangements, between the employers'
Association of Colleges and lecturers' union Natfhe was intended to bring peace to the sector as well as going some way to closing the pay gap with school teachers.
The agreement recognised increased productivity by staff over recent years and the poor career opportunities for teachers in FE.
However senior managers are about to plunge colleges into the poorest industrial relations since the early days of incorporation. Managers are bullying staff.
Staff at the college in question are being offered access to the AoCNatfhe pay arrangements - but only if they agree to throw away hard-won negotiated working conditions and sign a contract drawn up by senior managers.
Staff representatives have been largely ignored, even though they offered to negotiate.
This is not a new development. In 2002 the same managers imposed a non-negotiated contract on new staff joining the college and now in 2004 the same is about to happen.
The result is that, in this small college, there will be three different contracts of employment with three different salary scales operating at the same time!
FE is already suffering a haemorrhaging of staff, as more leave to join the much more lucrative schools sector and colleges are finding it increasing difficult to recruit.
Some of the problems of FE can be put down to a lack of funding. The reneging of the LSC on its promises to stabilise funding has caused a crisis .
However, poor management contributed to the crisis in FE. Managers seem to lack the ability to plan for the future and prefer short-term solutions.
Teaching staff are seen as an easy target, the short-term solution being to cut the wage bill by exploiting staff just that bit more, then a bit more and so on.
What does not appear to cross managers' minds is the effect their behaviour has on staff and, in turn, on the education students receive. If senior managers and staff do not work together, the aims of both will not be achieved.
The principal of this college is due to take up a new post. The teachers left behind hope that a new principal will attempt to look further into the future and provide the stability that FE so badlyneeds.
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