High-ranking teaching staff are the new target for managers wielding the budget axe, Harvey McGavin reports
Senior lecturers across the country are facing an ultimatum - take a drop in salary of thousands of pounds or lose your job - as colleges hand down massive pay cuts in an attempt to balance the books.
Top academic staff are the new target for college managers who are looking to make savings as the deadline for funding convergence moves ever closer.
Strike action is imminent at one college and ballots may be held at several others as unions fight a rearguard action to preserve jobs and pay rates.
At City College in Norwich, staff voted this week to start escalating strike action on May 1 after management attempted to force through a pound;4.5 million cuts package over the next three years.
Sixty teaching staff are being asked to take pay cuts of up to pound;4000 and work a longer week. The college is also planning to recruit new lecturing staff as assistant teachers on salaries of between pound;10,000 and pound;17,000.
A low staff turnover has left the college with a top-heavy pay scale, but NATFHE branch secretary Paul Hutchin said previously good labour relations at the "fairly well to-do" college had been shattered by the dispute.
He accused senior managers of failing to get to grips with the FEFC's new funding regime. "The problem here is that they have not responded to the convergence criteria and it has now come home to roost. They are trying to cut human resources to compensate and the membership have said enough is enough."
Proposals to make five principal lecturers redundant could also jeopardise degree courses run in conjunction with Anglia Polytechnic University, he said.
The City of Liverpool Community College is attempting to finance a pound;1.6 million budget by slicing pound;5,000 from the pay of 44 senior lecturers. The college, which has shed 450 lecturing posts since incorporation, mainly through voluntary redundancy, is offering the lecturers contracts which would mean an increased workload - from 22 to 26 hours' teaching time - and demotion to main-grade lecturer status.
"This is a significant blow for these people," said Gerwyn Evans, NATFHE branch liaison officer at the college, the second biggest in the country. We are seeking to negotiate a package whereby there will be no job losses and no cut in salary because we believe the college is overmanaged."
Staff, already enduring a three year pay freeze, are to be balloted in the next two weeks over possible strike action.
At the North East Surrey College of Technology, between 60 and 70 senior lecturing staff have been given a May 11 deadline to sign new contracts cutting their pay from pound;27,000 to pound;22,000. "If they get away with it here what's to stop other places doing it," asked one senior member of staff.
NATFHE negotiating secretary Sue Berryman said that more and more senior staff were seeing their pay and pensions crumble as management undertook restructuring exercises.
"It is devastating for the people concerned. But the fact behind this is the funding cuts. Having trimmed to the bone last year, colleges are left with very little room for manoeuvre," she said.