A real-terms pay cut is on the cards for college staff next year after a survey of principals found a majority are in favour of freezing salaries.
The Association of Colleges (AoC) told trade unions that research among member colleges had revealed a "strong view" in favour of freezing next year's pay at this year's levels. But the survey found that AoC members were keen to offer staff some reward, resulting in a 0.2 per cent non- consolidated offer for next year.
This means that there would be a one-off payment and that the increase would not be added to people's base salaries. If implemented it would mean pay negotiations for 201112 would be based on this year's salaries.
For a typical lecturer on around pound;34,000 a year, the offer amounts to roughly pound;5 more a month in 201011.
The unions have said that with inflation currently running at 5.3 per cent, measured by the Retail Prices Index, the 0.2 per cent offer points to a significant pay cut.
They are also scathing of the offer in the light of recent figures that showed average principal pay rose by 5.7 per cent between 200708 and 200809.
The further education National Joint Forum met for the first time this week to consider the unions' 201011 joint pay claim of 3.5 per cent, with a minimum rise of pound;1,000 for the lowest paid.
A spokesperson for the University and College Union (UCU) said: "When taking inflation into account this is, in effect, a massive pay cut. We do not believe a 0.2 per cent non-consolidated offer to be fair or just, particularly on top of last year's 1.5 per cent deal and coming on the back of recent revelations about the whopping rises enjoyed by those at the top. We expect the employers to come back with a credible offer."
Chris Fabby, national officer for FE at public-sector trade union Unison, said: "It would give an increase of just pound;27 for staff on the lowest wages. It is also hard to stomach when you consider that college principals have received, on average, well over 40 per cent in salary hikes over the past eight years.
"We know that college staff are doing record hours of unpaid overtime to keep colleges running smoothly. Many are working above and beyond their job descriptions to fill the gap left by staff cuts. We also know colleges are facing funding pressures, and we have been backing colleges in challenging these cuts."
A joint statement from UCU, Unison, the Association for College Management, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the GMB and Unite said that a fair pay award was vital for maintaining staff morale and productivity.
Following Monday's meeting Evan Williams, employment director at the AoC, said: "The employers drew attention to the significant funding pressures being faced by colleges.
"AoC informed the trade unions that it had carried out extensive research with member colleges as to what they believed to be an affordable pay recommendation for 201011. There was a strong view within the membership in support of a pay freeze.
"However, colleges also want to make some form of award to staff. AoC tabled a pay recommendation of 0.2 per cent non-consolidated as part of a package approach to the pay claim. This was rejected by the trade unions."
It was agreed that discussions should continue and that the National Joint Forum should meet again on July 1.