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Pay deal puts end to strike threat

College lecturers have called-off their strike threat after voting overwhelmingly in a union ballot for a pay deal which gives qualified staff a starting salary of pound;18,217.

With a turnout of 41 per cent, 12,794 (93 per cent) were in favour of the deal. It gives lecturers 3.5 per cent, backdated to August, and 0.5 per cent from April towards closing the pay gap with teachers.

Lecturers with qualified teacher status start on point 5 of the new pay scale - giving them better initial pay than teachers in schools and sixth-form colleges. But the advantages are quickly lost higher up the scale, said Barry Lovejoy, head of colleges at lecturers' union Natfhe.

"People must understand that those voting for this deal expect the working party (of employers and unions) to come up with a significant pay settlement by August. Our policy is still parity with teachers by 2004," he said.

Similarly, support staff - guaranteed a minimum wage of pound;5 an hour in the current settlement - will be expecting differentials between their pay and that of local government staff to be similarly addressed.

But, as joint secretary of the trade union side of the working party, Mr Lovejoy warned that "any deal from August will only be acceptable provided there is 100 per cent implementation in all colleges".

Ivor Jones, director of employment policy for the Association of Colleges, said he was confident that the new recommendations laid the foundation for detailed negotiations on an affordable, long-term pay deal.

"The AoC's priority now is to make a start on modernising pay arrangements to tackle the staff recruitment and retention crisis facing colleges," said Mr Jones.

Colleges would work with the AoC to develop affordable proposals for negotiation. He said: "The details of the full recommendations to modernise pay are due to be published in July 2003, providing the association has agreement from the trade unions of the Joint National Forum."

The unions have said they will press the Government to ensure that the new money, due from the extra pound;1.2bn announced by Education Secretary Charles Clarke last autumn, goes to colleges in time to fund an agreed settlement.

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