THERE was unprecedented unity between college employers and the biggest lecturers' union this week when they joined forces to demand a massive injection of funds to improve pay, writes George Low.
But minutes later they were at loggerheads again, with the union calling for an independent pay review and the Association of Colleges insisting on independence for principals and governors to reward teachers on a par with their school counterparts.
As the two sides prepared for annual pay negotiations Paul Mackney, NATFHE's general secretary, in a written submission to the Education Secretary David Blunkett, called the current pay and conditions of FE teachers a shambles and an international disgrace. "We will work hard with the employers to find solutions to these employment issues. But I am more and more certain they will not be resolved without a fundamental review, backed by the Government and with an independent chair."
The Government had promised them "a learning age," he said. "After two years we would have expected to be further down the road. Our members, especially those on the exit road, find the gap between the vision and reality of your lifelong learning policy increasingly hard to credit."
Despite the plethora of meetings with ministers and civil servants scheduled this month, NATFHE was not convinced that Mr Blunkett's department was serious about rectifying the deteriorating pay and employment situation. "I hope you can ensure the current post-16 review is not another exercise in window-dressing but actually addresses these issues," he said.
Meanwhile, Marcia Roberts, of the AOC, told The TES: "We calculate that salaries have drifted at least 7 per cent below those in schools and we are looking for a settlement that restores the balance."
But she refused to countenance a pay review. "We wish to keep our members' independence and flexibility to manage."