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Lecturers plan strike action over pay agreement fiasco

Lecturers across the country who belong to the union Natfhe are set to hold a one-day strike on February 26 as part of their campaign for better pay.

Staff in around 20 colleges are expected to vote for a ballot as they continue battles with management over the failure to implement a national 3.5 per cent pay rise. The ballot result is expected on February 12.

Barry Lovejoy, head of Natfhe colleges department, said that while 70 per cent had paid up satisfactorily, around 40 colleges had not. "We're disappointed there seems to be a rump consistently failing to pay the increase," he said. "We're also disappointed the Association of Colleges doesn't pursue this more vigorously."

Colleges where Natfhe is in dispute are Bishop Auckland, Bournemouth and Poole, Bradford, Cambridge Regional, City College Birmingham, City Lit Institute, London, City of Westminster, Evesham, Hertfordshire Regional, Lowestoft, Oxford and Cherwell, People's College Nottingham, the Pershore group of agricultural colleges, Rother Valley, Rotherham, Royal Forest of Dean, Shrewsbury, Stourbridge, West Herts, and Thurrock and Basildon.

FE Focus has seen a circular sent by AoC chief executive Dr John Brennan to principals and chairs of governors in which he says: "One size was never intended to fit all. The agreement is worded to allow colleges to adapt the national framework to suit local needs.

"Nothing in the recommendation was intended to create a binding obligation on colleges - as was made clear to unions throughout the negotiations.

"Unions are introducing an interpretation which goes beyond the terms of the agreement, specifically payment of the overall increases of 0.5 per cent from April 1, 2003 and 3 per cent from August 1, 2003 being in addition to consolidated or non-consolidated teachers' pay initiative payments (TPI)."

Ivor Jones, AoC's director of employment policy, said: "The fact that there are 20 votes for a ballot demonstrates that most follow our recommendations. It's for the 20 to determine what is affordable."

The failure to pay TPI money still rankles at Blackburn college, where Natfhe members were on the brink of striking just before the college's recent Office for Standards in Education inspection.

While a strike was only averted following an emergency meeting of governors and management paying 3.5 per cent, lecturers are still pushing for TPI.

They have not ruled out more action. Natfhe branch secretary Doug Clink said that, without it, lecturers could be pound;800 out of pocket.

Sheena Ewing, principal at Blackburn, said: "We have spent TPI money on creating advanced practitioners, regrading some positions and last year's pay award. Allocations have not been at the level first indicated."

There's also anger at Bradford college. "Most people were getting about 2.5-3 per cent out of TPI on top of normal pay," said branch secretary Paul Russell. "Management has offered us 3 per cent. If we only get that in total we'll be getting a pay cut."

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