FE unions have asked for a £1 per hour pay rise for all staff in the sector, along with equal pay for women and permanent contracts for temporary staff.
The claim was submitted to the Association of Colleges (AoC) by unions yesterday. The unions asked that colleges conduct equal pay audits to identify gender pay gaps, and that temporary, fixed-term or casual staff working in a college for more than two years be offered a permanent post commensurate with the hours they work. It added that they should be paid no less than the national living wage of £8.25 per hour outside of London, and £9.40 per hour in London.
In the claim, the unions argued that the attractiveness of working in the sector has reached "tipping point", with many college staff facing pay cuts and experiencing "unprecedented" levels of stress and high workload.
The unions' similar £1 per hour claim in last year's pay negotiations was rejected by the AoC, which claimed colleges were unable to afford an increase. This stand-off resulted in two national strikes in colleges, the most recent one by members of the University and College Union and Unison. The two unions claimed that more than 200 colleges were affected.
“College staff in England are approaching a loss in real pay of 20 per cent... since 2009," stated this year's claim. "The attractiveness of employment in colleges has reached a tipping point not previously seen. In its most recently released research, the AoC show that staff recruitment and retention data have taken a sudden turn for the worse. Teachers leaving colleges for the reason of getting better pay in schools has risen by over 10 [percentage points] to a level unprecedented in recent years of 25.8 per cent, while 27 per cent of support staff are leaving due to the level of pay compared to the private sector." Working in FE is "no longer an attractive career for support staff", the claim added.
Pay freeze a 'mistake'
Last year national industrial action was held after the AoC did not offer a pay rise to staff for 2015-16. The unions representing FE staff had called for a similar £1 per hour pay rise for all college employees. In February, another strike was organised by Unison and the UCU.
In their joint claim, the unions representing staff in FE – UCU, ATL, Unison, Unite, GMB and AMiE – argued that last year's pay freeze had been a "mistake"and had damaged the "credibility" of the national joint forum negotiations. "If colleges sincerely desire and respect pay talks at a national level, then an explicit and binding commitment to better paid jobs with better terms and conditions is required," it added.
An AoC spokesperson said: “We will shortly be starting discussions on behalf of the sector. We will continue to work positively and productively with the unions to represent our respective members collectively and position the further education sector effectively in the longer term. The Association of Colleges, along with employers, is keen to protect the prospects of further education, its skilled workforce and the students it serves.”