Lecturers urge colleges not to hide behind government on pay

The University and College Union is calling for a pay increase and more annual leave

The UCU is calling for an increase in pay and annual leave for FE teaching staff

Lecturers have called on colleges to not "hide behind the government’s failings" on FE funding and deliver a pay rise for their teaching staff.

In its annual pay claim, delivered to the Association of Colleges on Friday, the University and College Union (UCU) called for £1 extra per hour for all staff, the living wage to be the minimum wage in further education, and an additional five days’ annual leave per year.


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Largest increase for the lowest paid

According to the union, the claim would deliver a 4.8 per cent pay rise for an experienced further education lecturer and would ensure the lowest paid teaching staff will receive the largest proportional increase.

The AoC represents English colleges in negotiations with the unions representing FE staff: UCU, Unison, Unite, GMB and the National Education Union. Each individual college, however, is free to decide whether to ignore the national deal.

At today’s UCU annual congress in Harrogate, the union’s head of further education Andrew Harden told delegates that colleges could not shirk their responsibility to their staff and hide behind government cuts when it came to pay and conditions.

Mr Harden said staff were fed up with being told that nothing was possible unless the government came to the rescue. This year’s claim follows strike action at colleges across England, as well as a number of locally agreed pay deals.  

Mr Harden said: “This pay claim addresses the problem of declining pay in further education and provides the largest lifts for the lowest pay. We hope the AoC engages positively with us now otherwise we could see another year of industrial unrest.

“This year should have taught colleges that they mustn’t wait until strike action to deal with us. Colleges who don’t try and hide behind government failings, but instead engage with us on the pay and conditions of their staff will receive a positive hearing.”

Dropping FE pay

In March, strike action took place at a number of colleges, but half of the planned walkouts were called off or paused to allow for further negotiations.

Recent research from the Education and Training Foundation showed pay in further education has dropped. According The 2019 Further Education and Workforce Data report from the ETF reveals a “decrease in median teacher pay across all providers”, from £31,800 in 2016–17 to £31,600 in 2017-18.

While pay in colleges was slightly higher than in other provider types, pay for teaching staff there has developed in the same way over time as pay across the entire FE sector. 

Earlier this year, it was revealed that there would be no funded pay increase for teaching staff in the sector – despite schoolteachers on the main pay scale receiving a 3.5 per cent rise.

College leaders and staff have campaigned together for an increase in FE funding from the government to ensure the sustainability of the sector, and this month saw a week of activity, with events taking place across the country and politicians speaking out on behalf of the sector. 

David Hughes, chief executive of the AoC, said colleges had had no funding increase for the last decade whilst costs had risen. "The impact of this is a sector which last year managed an aggregate surplus of just 0.1 per cent (£18m across 251 colleges), with many colleges running a deficit budget. These cuts have led to reductions in teaching hours and support services for students, staff cuts and wage freezes and many colleges struggling to remain viable," said Mr Hughes. 

He added: "That funding crisis is the context for the unions’ pay claim. With college teacher pay lagging far behind schools, an ambitious pay claim is to be expected and is not unreasonable. Sadly, though, it is unlikely to be affordable unless the government heeds our calls for a rise in funding rates. Last year we came close to having a dedicated pay grant for college staff, akin to that given to schools. We will fight again for that this year and are heartened by the funding being provided to colleges to pay the increased employer contribution for the Teachers’ Pension Scheme."

"We meet with the staff unions in the coming weeks to open up negotiations and I am expecting another round of impassioned, evidence-based, constructive but tough discussions.”

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