Doctor, feel my pain over pay

7th March 2008 at 00:00

Nobody likes a whinger, except, perhaps, another whinger with the same grievance. Sometimes, though, when you work in FE, it's hard not to whinge.

The National Audit Office published a review last week into the effects of the new contract given to GPs in 2004. To the outsider, the deal appears to be generous. Doctors' income has rocketed, up by more than 50 per cent in many cases. It has also led, says the report, to doctors seeing fewer patients and having more time off. At the same time, it is claimed medical services are still not reaching all those who need them.

Not surprisingly, the doctors themselves have a different slant on this. They point out that the reason they are seeing fewer patients is that they are spending more time with each of them.

There's not much they can say about the money though, except perhaps: "Thank you very much!" When I turn up at my GP's surgery, I can't help but notice that the reserved spots in the car park look like a Mayfair showroom.

Sadly, when you put together the words "new" and "contract" in the context of FE, you get a rather different scenario. The first round of these happened back in the early 1990s, after colleges were taken out of local authority control. It hasn't ended there, of course, and managers up and down the country are continuing to modernise - as they now like to call it - our contracts of employment, to their advantage.

Unlike doctors, we seem to have ended up working longer and harder than before, with teaching hours ratcheted up and all sorts of new tasks to do in our so-called spare time. At the same time, the one perk of the job - the holidays - have been systematically plundered, so that one way or another we now get around the same amount of time off as your average civil servant.

And we all know what has happened to lecturers' pay. When you get your wage slip these days, it is not so much looking at what you are paid as looking for it.

The differential between our salaries and those of schoolteachers is still around 6 per cent overall, and much higher in more categories. Given this, the University and College Union, the biggest union for lecturers in FE, is about to ballot on strike action over the issue.

So, while it may be true that no one does like a whinger, if that lot is not worth a whinge, I don't know what is.

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