Two leading employers involved in the national campaign for tougher contracts in colleges have broken ranks and done deals giving major concessions to the unions.
One locally-struck agreement will cause difficulties nationally for both the Colleges' Employers' Forum and the lecturers' union NATFHE which reopened talks this week aimed at settling the two-year dispute over new contracts.
The agreement being finalised at Peterlee College, Durham, gives lecturers a 23-hour maximum teaching week over a 40-week year, rights including study and paternity leave and a pay rise of 2.9 per cent, Pounds 600 and one increment. Gordon Scott, the chair of governors, is also chair of the CEF.
It is a marked departure from the CEF model contract, which calls for 35 days' leave and up to 37 hours a week teaching. Equally, NATFHE head office will not like the increase in maximum teaching hours, from 756 to 920 a year.
There is a further complication at Peterlee. It is one of the few colleges where the NASUWT has a strong presence, representing over a third of staff. Their head office has already sanctioned the deal.
Cleveland College, whose chair of governors is a CEF board member, has done a deal which NATFHE says is "complicated" but very acceptable.
Neither the employers nor NATFHE were willing to comment on the Peterlee deal in advance of talks this week. Both claim to be winning the protracted national dispute. The CEF claims that most lecturers in the majority of colleges have signed CEF-style "flexible" contracts.