6% pay rise or June 9 strike goes ahead

30th May 2008 at 01:00
Lecturers threaten more action in September unless the pay gap with schoolteachers is narrowed

Lecturers threaten more action in September unless the pay gap with schoolteachers is narrowed

Lecturers threaten to strike again with two weeks if there is no progress on their pay talks. The University and College Union (UCU) said a one-day strike will be held on Monday June 9 if colleges are unable to improve on the 2.5 per cent offer, which would come into effect in September.

Lecturers are asking for 6 per cent in an attempt to narrow the estimated 10 per cent pay gap between their salaries and those of schoolteachers. The dispute has already seen a one-day strike, on the same day as the National Union of Teachers' action last month.

Pay was high on the agenda at the UCU's three-day congress in Manchester this week, when it was discussed as part of a wider debate about government restraints on the earnings of public sector employees. Delegates were considering a proposal that the union joins other public sector unions in a national campaign against pay restraint.

Members of the UCU - previously Natfhe - have seen incomes slide relative to schoolteachers since colleges left local authority control in 1993 and the end of the old "silver book" agreements on pay.

The position on lecturers' pay has been partly attributed, by employers, to the funding gap between colleges and schools for 16-18 provision, estimated at 13 per cent.

While the NUT's ballot covered a one-day strike, the UCU members voted for open-ended action.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the union, said: "College lecturers are serious in their demand for equal pay with schoolteachers, and the UCU's congress will be developing a strategy for continued action. The 2.5 per cent offer is another below-inflation attempt to cut salaries and it has been roundly rejected.

"If talented young people are to be attracted to teaching in colleges, the rot in pay must be stopped.

"Employers must come up with something better or college departments in London will be closed on June 9 and colleges can expect widespread action in the autumn."

A meeting with the Association of Colleges takes place next Thursday. The AoC represents the employers in pay talks, but any decision is not binding on individual colleges. This has led to separate, secondary disputes in colleges that have not implemented nationally agreed pay settlements.

June 9 is also the date of a rally in London entitled "Speak up for public services", organised by the Trades Union Congress and involving 26 individual unions. The UCU will send representatives to the event regardless of whether the strike goes ahead.

It will involve teachers, lecturers, and firefighters among the assortment of public sector employees, as well as civil servants working for central Government and its agencies. The intention is to lobby MPs for investment in public services as well as better pay.

The AoC has insisted the 2.5 per cent offer is realistic in the light of the funding situation in colleges.

The UCU has already planned a lunchtime protest at colleges on June 4, the day before the next pay talks. It will fall short of industrial action but is aimed at raising the profile of the pay campaign.

The union is planning at least two days of strikes in September if the dispute is not resolved by the end of August. It has been negotiating jointly with other unions representing college staff, including Unison and the Association for College Management, but the other unions will not be taking part in the threatened strike action.

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