Trade unions representing staff in further education colleges in England have today submitted a pay claim of 5 per cent for the 2018-19 academic year to the Association of Colleges (AoC).
The unions also want a guaranteed minimum increase of £1,500 for the lowest paid staff. They are also calling for colleges to pay the living wage of £8.75 (£10.20 in London) and become accredited living-wage employers.
The unions originally set out the claim at a meeting in May but the AoC – 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. The deadlock was broken last month after the AoC backed down.
Ahead of the pay talks on Friday 13 July, the unions said they were pleased the employers had recognised the importance of better pay in the sector.
'Staff pay has fallen 25 per cent in real terms'
Representatives from the University and College Union (UCU), Unison, Unite, GMB and the NEU said it was time for the employers to make an above-inflation offer that goes some way towards making up for a decade of real-terms cuts to pay.
Staff at colleges who have been awarded AoC pay deals over the past 10 years have still seen their pay fall by 25 per cent in real terms, according to UCU.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “The AoC’s recognition that pay in further education is a problem is to be welcomed and we, therefore, hope this year’s pay talks can be concluded quickly and satisfactorily.
“Staff will rightly expect an offer that makes up for a decade of real-terms cuts and goes some way to addressing the unacceptable gap between staff pay in colleges and schools.”
A spokesperson for the AoC said: “Colleges have some of the most talented and dedicated staff, transforming lives across the UK every day. We need to do all that we can to recognise, respect and reward them, and we look forward to constructive talks with the national joint forum in July.
"The chronic underfunding of the further education sector is damaging for staff and students – it is simply not acceptable that teachers in schools are earning, on average, £37,000 compared with only £30,000 in colleges. The AoC will continue to work positively with the trade unions to pressure government for proper investment in a sector supporting 2.2 million people each year in England."
Pay in FE is set through national negotiation procedures. At present, the AoC represents its members in negotiations with the unions representing FE staff – the UCU, NEU, Unison, GMB and Unite. If an agreement is struck, it is then down to individual colleges to decide whether to implement it.
At the UCU FE sector conference earlier this month, delegates voted to ensure that its branches were poised to conduct strike ballots over pay following the summer break if the AoC failed to make an “acceptable offer”.