Colleges in England and Wales are moving towards the Scottish position in which employment contracts are locally agreed. Nearly a third of colleges south of the border now have local agreements, but in London there is a threat by lecturers of industrial action over pay.
The latest survey by the lecturers' union NATFHE reveals that 110 colleges have struck deals to replace contracts - known as the Silver Book - which date back to the era of local authority control. Some lecturers will have received their first wage rise in two years, as staff employed on Silver Book contracts had their pay frozen in 1994.
The union has not agreed a pay claim with the Colleges' Employers' Forum, which represents college managers in the south, since 1993 when colleges were incorporated. NATFHE is now planning to submit national pay claims for 1996-97 to managers in a campaign to reinstate collective bargaining.
Meanwhile London regional officials have written to all colleges in the capital demanding a retrospective rise for 1995. The letters - which mean London colleges will receive two claims for different years virtually simultaneously - threaten industrial action if last year's claim is not met in full.
The new NATFHE survey shows an increase in the number of colleges agreeing local pay deals with lecturers has speeded up, with two-thirds now covered by new deals.
Both the unions and the Colleges' Employers' Forum have insisted that the local deals closely match their own demands. One sticking point in the national negotiations which broke down last year, was the CEF's refusal to allow maximum weekly teaching hours to be stated in contracts. The teaching week has also been a recurrent issue between college managements and the Educational Institute of Scotland.
According to the NATFHE survey, all but eight of the local agreements have a top limit of between 20 and 30 hours a week. Sue Berryman, national negotiating secretary, said: "What the CEF is saying does not reflect what is being agreed."