A small pay rise for FE lecturers, which amounts to less than 1 per cent of their salary, is on the table following a take-it-or-leave-it offer from college employers.
In the 201112 pay negotiations, the Association of Colleges' (AoC) final offer to staff is just pound;125 a year - or pound;2.40 a week before tax - for staff earning pound;21,000 or more.
For a college employee earning pound;30,000 a year, this equates to a 0.42 per cent pay rise.
Lecturers earning below pound;21,000 would receive an annual rise of pound;200, while staff on the lowest rung of the AoC pay scale would get a 2.3 per cent pay increase, payable from 1 August.
Barry Lovejoy, national head of FE at the University and College Union (UCU), described the offer as "an effective pay cut" in real terms. It is well short of the 4 per cent rise asked for by the unions, and is substantially below the rate of inflation, which stands at 5 per cent according to the retail price index.
The claim letter from the trade unions representing FE staff - including ATL, Unison and GMB - said: "No matter what measure you choose, the last 12 months have seen staff in FE suffer real and significant falls in living standards."
The increase is higher than last year's 0.2 per cent offer, which was rejected by UCU, prompting strikes across the country in March.
School teachers will get no increase at all this year, and the negotiations take place against a backdrop of hundreds of FE staff being made redundant.
In a letter to UCU members, Mr Lovejoy wrote: "Negotiations have achieved an offer of an increase rather than a nought per cent pay freeze and without the strings of worsened sick pay and productivity demands originally demanded by employers.
"However, the offer clearly remains an effective pay cut when taking into account current inflation rates and has done nothing to restore previous shortfalls."
Evan Williams, AoC director of employment and professional services, said: "AoC considers that the recommendation for 201112 is a fair and reasonable recommendation in the light of the current difficult funding settlements.
"It recognises the difficulties for low-paid staff; enables colleges who are hard-pressed by public service budget reductions to at least recognise the financial pressures on staff; and enables colleges, their staff and trade unions to work together to find innovative ways of addressing the spending cuts."
The AoC rejected UCU's request to enter negotiations on associate teachers' pay, but the union said the offer includes concessions on other issues, such as setting up a working group to develop good practice in lesson observations.
UCU will start consulting members in September.
Original headline: Take-it-or-leave-it offer of 1% is `effective pay cut', says union