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Colleges reject union's pay bid

PAY will dominate the annual conference of the lecturers' union NATFHE after employers threw out its claim for pound;2,500 for all staff, regardless of income, writes Harvey McGavin.

The Association of Colleges has offered a 3.3 per cent or pound;330 rise - whichever is greater.

The offer matches what school teachers will receive but is much less than the flat-rate demand made by the union as part of its campaign to narrow the pay gap between schools and colleges.

The offer will be put to members at the Blackpool conference.But several motions suggest that feelings are already running high.

One, from northern region, attacks the union's national executive for its "ineffective leadership" on pay and terms and conditions of employment. Another, from Wales, calls for a ballot on "escalatory strike action" should the current offer be rejected.

East Anglia region advocates a campaign "for the restoration of national conditions of service binding on all FE colleges and as close as possible to the Siler Book."

This follows the defeat at employment tribunal last month of breakaway union LEAF (Lecturers Employment Advice and Action Fellowship) in their battle to restore pre-incorporation "Silver Book" terms and conditions. NATFHE decided not to pursue the case itself after taking legal advice.

The employers' offer comes as Further Education Funding Council figures show colleges are spending an ever-lower proportion of their budgets on pay.

Expenditure on wages and salaries fell by 3 per cent in 1997-8 to 64 per cent of income, the third successive year to show a decrease.

Even if the pay offer is accepted, there is no guarantee that all lecturers will receive the increase - a significant minority of colleges have failed to honour the pay award in previous years.

At least 1,700 FE lecturers stand to benefit from a European ruling granting back-dated pension rights to part-timers. Full story www.tesfefocus.co.uk. Also on the web this week - managers return to the classroom.

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