An end beckons to the long row over youth workers' pay.
Following Community and Youth Workers union's first ever one-day national strike, its pay and conditions committee is recommending a package that offers 3 per cent spread over the year allied to a re-grading of every job.
The union had described 3 per cent as 'insulting'. But at its annual conference in Derry, CYWU general secretary Doug Nicholls said that local re-grading could potentially give members "a lot more money". Delegates were told that the average community and youth workers is paid pound;346 a week. This compares with pound;555 for those working at "associate professional level" which, said Mr Nicholls, is arguably what community and youth workers are.
The deal would give members 2.7 per cent from September 2003 to March 2004 and 3.3 per cent up to September 2004. Mr Nicholls said it compared with 7 per cent over three years being negotiated throughout local government.
"It's all about getting more money into pay packets and into the system," he said. This would apply both from bottom to top - the CYWU is campaigning for an advanced practitioner grade that could command an annual salary of over pound;30,000.
One delegate, Ian Marchmant from Hertfordshire, thought it felt short of expectation. "We are 25 per cent under teachers' pay," he said. "Local authorities got a 5.9 per cent block grant for youth and community work. I think we should be going for 5.9 per cent."
But Mr Nicholls says the current JNC employers' offer, which received strong backing at conference, is the best that can be negotiated without extensive and industrial action.
Conference also voted to lobby the Higher Education Funding Council to get a better deal for trainees. Delegates heard that although work placements amounted to 50 per cent of the course, students received less funding than social workers and teachers.
"There's inequality and it's having an impact on the quality of training for students," said Mr Nicholls.