Hard times? We operate in a perma-recession

12th December 2008 at 00:00

One of the effects of this recession is that employees are being asked to forego their annual pay rise in order to protect jobs.

In further education, many employers have demanded a similar sacrifice for the past four years (page 1). And, for the vast bulk of that time, these colleges could not blame a recession for their parsimony.

Of course, further education tends to operate in an economic climate of perma-recession where a state-maintained funding gap, currently 9 per cent, exists in perpetuity between colleges and schools. Government should act to end this absurdity.

Implementing the pay scale agreed in 2004 would undoubtedly cost some colleges dear. The College of North West London estimated a bill of up to Pounds 400,000 at the time of the agreement.

But the fact that about a third of colleges show little or no sign of implementing a deal struck in 2004 and which could have been phased in over the past four years, makes a mockery of the national bargaining system to which they are signed up.

A comparison with universities is interesting in that almost all implement agreed national pay deals. When universities deviate from the national script in favour of local pay agreements these generally improve upon the national settlement.

Some colleges also pay premium wages for the right staff, but the unavoidable conclusion is that, in general, universities value the financial and professional status of their staff more highly than do many colleges.

This does no favours for a further education system seeking to wrest a greater degree of professional autonomy from the state by developing its capacities for rigorous self-regulation and quality improvement.

If colleges want greater autonomy they must assume responsibility for improving quality, and that usually comes at a price.

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