We've been thrown to the lions over pay

16th May 2003 at 01:00
ONE of the more embarrassing moments in a male gladiator's life is in the shower after contests. Powerful men who have defeated ferocious lions and tigers in combat tremble with the thought "do I compare?" Well, blushing aside, how do we FE lecturers (both female and male, naturally) compare in the financial department?

It used to be easy to answer this, but it is rather more complex today.

Instead of combat with one ferocious beast (well, perhaps not all college managements are quite like that) there are no fewer than 43 separate sets of pay negotiations.

There used to be one settlement date, April 1. (It is strange that FE lecturers chose to have their pay settled on April Fools Day, but there is a lot that is strange about FE lecturers.) Today the settlement dates are more varied with several colleges going for August 1.

First, we need to consider who we are measuring ourselves against. One appropriate group are FE lecturers in England and Wales. They may not be doing the equivalent of "dancing in the streets of Raith" down south, but they do have something to crow about. By a vote of 12 to one, the largest union has just voted to accept a backdated rise of 3.5 per cent with an extra half per cent later in the year.

In Wales they have done even better with an equivalent rise plus 4.7 per cent for hourly pay rates. Yet, Bonny Scotland needs to keep itself covered up, or at least turn its back to avoid the smug glances of those southerners.

Settlements last year averaged some 3 per cent, but this disguises the fact that there were many below the average (which I suppose is a statistical certainty). Indeed, of the 21 settlements noted in January, 13 colleges barely lifted themselves off the 2 per cent mark.

Time was when Scottish lecturers, even if they did not take their pay home in wheelbarrows and had to work a longer week with fewer holidays, could say that they were better paid than their day school colleagues. Now classroom teachers at the top of the scale bring home pound;28,707 a year.

FE lecturers average pound;26,777.

You might argue that the rises are paid for by higher productivity. Not so.

The authoritative Income Data Services report on public sector pay states:

"Pay scales in the education sector are being shortened to aid retention (and) the Government is introducing measures to reduce teachers'

workloads."

So what is going on? With the union conference season just getting into its stride, perhaps we will be given an answer.

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