College pay talks start after deadlock broken

The AoC has agreed to open pay negotiations with the unions representing college staff in spite of ongoing strike action

Stephen Exley

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Talks over next year’s national pay deal for college staff will get under way, after what the University and College Union has branded a “U-turn” by the Association of Colleges.

The UCU had hit out at the AoC for “unnecessary provocation” after the body – which represents colleges in the discussions, although each institution is free to decide whether to adhere to national agreements – said it would not discuss a pay claim for 2018-19 while UCU members were still in dispute at some colleges.

Industrial action commenced at 10 colleges across the country, but several have now reached agreement with the unions. Industrial disputes over pay and conditions are still continuing at five colleges. UCU members at City and Islington, Hackney Community, Havering, Tower Hamlets and Westminster Kingsway are due to take strike action for up to four days between 5 and 12 June.

Back to the negotiating table

However, UCU today announced that the AoC has now said it will receive the 2018-19 pay claim from the unions. These include the NEU, Unison, Unite and GMB.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “We are pleased AoC has reversed its decision and will now accept the unions’ pay claim. We always think the best place to resolve any issue is at the negotiating table. It is time for them to come to the table with a decent pay offer for staff who have seen their pay held down for too long.”

'Committed to joint working'

Mary Vine-Morris, AoC's area director for London, said: “Following officer-level discussion between AoC and unions of the National Joint Forum (NJF), we are pleased that all parties remain committed to meaningful national negotiations and joint working. The challenge for AoC has been the industrial action at a small number of colleges which inevitably undermines productive working relationships. We are glad that this is now down to a handful of disputes by local UCU branches, which we hope will soon be resolved.

“We believe that it is in the best interest of the sector as a whole that national pay negotiations continue and it is on this basis that the AoC has agreed to receive the 2018-19 pay claim. It is more beneficial for the sector that we focus on the bigger picture and jointly campaign to improve sector funding. Working together, we need to continue to pressure government to recognise the value of the workforce and to fund further education appropriately, for the benefit of learners everywhere.”

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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