TOP management in Northern Ireland's further education colleges can enjoy a splendid holiday this summer, thanks to a big pay rise.
The principal of the smallest college, smaller than most secondary schools, will get an extra pound;6,000, bringing him to nearly pound;47,000 per year.
Most heads will pick up around pound;7,500, boosting their salaries to between pound;54,000 and pound;64,000. The increases equal the salary of a worker on the minimum wage.
In the biggest colleges, the income boost will be between pound;8,500 and pound;10,000, bringing them to pound;77,000 at the top.
Most of the rise dates back to when Ulster's colleges became independent of local authoorities in April 1998, which brought a bonus of 7.8 per cent for principals. But they are also getting 3.5 per cent dating back two years and another 3 per cent going back to September 1998, making a total increase of 14.3 per cent. Vice-principals will get less, receiving only 3.5 per cent as a result of incorporation, but still get a total rise of 10.3 per cent.
Jimmy McKeown, of lecturers' union NATFHE, said the increases contrasted starkly with the 2.4 per cent offer to teachers, grudgingly raised to 3 per cent.
He noted the colleges' ability to pay was taken into account in the lecturers' negotiations but was not a factor for managers. "Our members will find it hard to accept that governing bodies should show generosity only to those at the top," he said.