Equal pay rights for prison workers

31st August 2001 at 01:00
Ministers back down over 'forgotten' lecturers and include them in Teachers Pay Initiative. Ian Nash reports

THOUSANDS of lecturers excluded from the Government's new pay initiative this year will now qualify for annual bonuses of up to pound;2,000 following a last-minute rethink by ministers.

The move, extending the Teachers Pay Initiative to prison education staff, will remove a source of major hostility this term. Refusal to pay for prison and New Deal staff in the first round of the three-year initiative had been greeted with outrage by unions and employer organisations.

Civil servants were calculating the size of the additional pot as The TES went to press. It will be new cash from the Department for Education and Skills, channelled through the Learning and Skills Council. But it is likely to come from the Home Office as it hands responsibility for the service to the DFES this year.

The problem with payments arose partly because of the transfer, according to the LSC. A spokesperson said, while it had reliable funding figures for further and higher education, "it does not hold similar data relating to prison education, teacher training and other relevant sources of funding".

But the unions and professional associations insisted that the LSC's arguments did not wash. Peter Pendle, chief executive of the Association for College Management, said: "College managers cannot introduce TPI and only apply it to certain staff."

David Gibson, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "We have made protests about this. Of course the information the council needs is available. It is clearly spelled out in the prison contracts."

Colleges hold some of the biggest prison contracts in Britain. City College Manchester, has 22 contracts covering 20,000 learners. Strode in Somerset has half its 350 staff in prison education. It needs almost pound;200,000 TPI money but will receive just pound;98,000.

Some college managers warned that they would have to "rob Peter to pay Paul". As a result, many FE lecturers would find themselves with only half the rise hoped for.

David Mozley, deputy principal of Strode, said: "We either pay all our well-deserving staff now and spread the cash more thinly or make them all wait until proper funding is allocated."

John Lowe, chair of the ACM employment and services committee, said:

"Prison staff weren't excluded, they were simply forgotten by the LSC and DFES. But we have to include them. We are required to treat all staff on an equal pay basis."

In a further move by the Government to defuse the national pay strike threat by the college lecturers' union, NATFHE, ministers have found an extra pound;5 million which they hope will bridge the gap between employers and unions.

The cash will go into the modernisation fund and could lift the pay increase offer to all lecturers to 4 per cent by April. It could be enough for the union to rescind its strike recommendation this autumn.

Leaders of NATFHE were due to discuss the move with the Government today. But other union leaders have expressed disappointment Mr Pendle said: "ACM would be very disappointed as it would only go to staff not to managers. This looks like nothing more than a climb-down in the face of a strike threat."

Mr Gibson said: "A more realistic proposition would be to give the pound;33m needed this year as colleges are lagging behind and improve core funding of colleges. pound;5m is hardly significant, given the number of staff."

Comment www.tesfefocus.co.uk

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