Wales pay hike could mean job cuts, college employers warn

24th September 2010 at 01:00

College leaders in Wales have warned a pay increase for all FE lecturers could mean cash-strapped institutions laying off staff to fund it.

The 2.3 per cent rise came into force at the beginning of August, with lecturers seeing the increase in this month's pay packets. It is part of a deal which means FE lecturers receive the same pay rises as their counterparts in schools.

This compares very favourably with the current offer on the table for their English counterparts of just 0.2 per cent.

The group representing Wales's 21 colleges has predicted that the rise, the final one agreed under a three-year deal, will cost #163;6 million to fund along with a further #163;5 million because of lecturers moving up to higher pay brackets through promotion - and taking the 2.3 per cent rise with them.

ColegauCymru chief executive John Graystone said: "Colleges will pay because of the pay parity deal, but they have to find the money from somewhere. We're anticipating a very tough budget for next year.

"Last year, there were 400 jobs lost at colleges in Wales. Colleges will bend over backwards to avoid job losses this time but we're saying there might be job losses this time too."

About 14,000 people are employed at colleges in Wales; more than half of those jobs are full-time and part-time lecturers.

Unions which helped negotiate the deal dismissed the warning as scaremongering.

The chair of the FE committee of the Welsh branch of the University and College Union, Ian Bosworth, said: "The threat of redundancies in response to a modest pay settlement has become an annual ritual, and frankly, ColegauCymru needs to change the record.

"Far from being the extremely generous deal claimed by Colegau-Cymru, a 2.3 per cent rise is a third year of a real-terms pay cut for staff working in colleges and is no justification for the threat of compulsory redundancies."

The current deal is part of the FE pay initiative, which was introduced in Wales seven years ago to link the pay awards of FE lecturers to that of school teachers.

Norman Crowther of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which also helped negotiate the deal in Wales, said lecturers deserved to have their pay put in line with teachers.

He added: "If you view the post-16 sector as essential to help the economy recover, then lecturers need to be well paid."

He said colleges could afford the rise if they budgeted more responsibly. "In the past they've been spending too much on buildings and pay has been lagging behind," he added.

News of the row comes as unions and college bosses in England prepare to sit down next month to discuss the 0.2 per cent pay rise offered to FE lecturers across the country.

The figure - 1,000 per cent below the increase FE lecturers in Wales are getting - will be dismissed by unions when both sides meet in early October.

Mr Crowther said: "It's an incredulous offer. The cost of administering it will be more than 0.2 per cent. It's not the way to conduct realistic negotiations in this current economic climate."

He said lecturers would be unlikely to walk out over the "derisory" offer simply because the pay rise would not cover any industrial action.

A spokeswoman for the employers' group, the Association of Colleges, said it was awaiting feedback from the unions before commenting further.

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