Staff face pay freeze as 'stretched' colleges refuse to offer increase

Stephen Exley

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College staff across the country look set to miss out on a pay rise next year after the Association of Colleges announced that its members would not be offering any salary increase for 2015-16.

In March, the unions representing staff in the sector – UCU, ATL, Unison, Unite and the GMB – submitted a claim for a £1 per hour increase for all college employees.

They also asked for the AoC to commit to the living wage as a minimum level of pay, as well as a new code of practice for dealing with workload issues in colleges.

But TES can reveal that the AoC told the unions yesterday it would not be offering any pay rise for staff. This is likely to bring colleges into conflict with the unions, and raises the prospect of industrial action in the coming months. The unions will now have to meet to decide how to respond.

Marc Whitworth, the association’s director of employment policy and services, said: “Colleges want to reward their staff for the work they do but there are limitations.‎ The 0 per cent pay recommendation AoC has made reflects the feedback we have had from our member colleges about the stringent financial circumstances in the sector.

“Cuts to funding for both adults and young people have left budgets stretched and this means colleges have to make some tough decisions.”

The unions’ pay submission to the AoC argues that FE staff have suffered “real pay cuts totalling more than 17 per cent over the last five years. For experienced lecturers at point 8 on the teaching scale this equates to a loss of over £6,100 a year.”

The unions’ claim “addresses the cost of living crisis faced by the lowest paid but it also addresses the issue of pay parity with schools, academies and free schools”, it adds.

A UCU spokesman told TES: “We met with the employers yesterday and will be discussing their recommendation and our response to it next week. The union’s further education committee meets on Friday.”

The AoC negotiates with unions representing the sector to produce national recommendations for colleges. However, individual institutions are free to decide whether to adopt any deal agreed.

Funding for adult education in colleges has already been slashed by 24 per cent for the 2015-16 academic year, and the Treasury has announced that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will have to make further savings of £450 million.

A report by Professor Alison Wolf – who carried out a review of vocational education for the government in 2011 – published earlier this week warns that FE could “vanish into history” because the current funding system is “destroying” the sector.

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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