Minister 'troubled' over pay rise delays

15th December 2000 at 00:00
Malcolm Wicks sent a tough warning to colleges this week when he told them he was "troubled" by the fact that many lecturers have still to receive basic, inflation-linked pay rises.

Mr Wicks, the lifelong learning minister, raised the point himself at this week's summit meeting between the Government and the national joint forum - led by lecturers' union Natfhe and the Association of Colleges.

In an exclusive interview with FE Focus after the talks, he said: "We have given extra money and made record levels of investment recently in further education.

"So colleges should be able to pay staff properly, in terms of inflationary increases. When I hear that some colleges have not felt able to do that, I am troubled."

He stressed that it was the colleges and not the Government that was the employer. He had, he said, no details of the financial standings of individual colleges. He knew that some were still in difficulty as a result of "clawing their way back" after a long period of under-investment.

"But it is difficult to understand why colleges, now being properly funded, cannot give lecturers a proper pay increase.

"I made a point of saying that at our meeting because we are making progress in our talks about 'something for something'."

As FE Focus reported earlier this month, half of the country's colleges are delaying paying a 3.3 per cent wage rise, which was due in August. Some say they cannot afford it, some say the will pay eventually and backdate, others blame uncertainty over how much money they will owe where student targets have not been met.

Paul Mackney, general secretary of NATFHE, said it was outrageous that some people had not had pay rises over a considerable period. "Everywhere else in the public sector people expect and get an annual pay settlement. It might not be all they want, but they still get it."

Mr Wicks said he was also ambitious to enhance the status of the teaching profession in FE. "What I want to see is the renaissance of the senior lecturer grade, which is all part of the 'something for something'."

He wanted to reward excellent teachers, like those in the schools, who saw their career route as staying in the classroom. "I like the concept of senior lecturer because of the resonance of further education and higher education."

He added that he was concerned that when he visited colleges he met the marketing manager or finance director, "but rarely any academics, people who spend their time on teaching and learning and student development. I want to see that change".

He has given the green light to the parties to come up with detailed proposals for professional development, the encouragement and recognition of qualifications, and better treatment for part-time staff.

"If we can get it right there will be extra resources in the future - that is what 'something for something' is," said the minister.

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