The University and College Union (UCU) has slammed a 1 per cent pay rise offer from colleges as a “wholly inadequate response to the pay crisis in further education”.
The Association of Colleges (AoC) had said it would be willing to offer a larger increase if the Department for Education had funded it, as it did for schoolteachers. But the DfE indicated it would not fund such a deal.
Now, as staff in 26 colleges are balloted once again on strike action, the AoC has made a final offer of a 1 per cent increase, or £250 for staff earning less than £25,000 a year.
'Crisis in our colleges'
The offer letter states: “AoC will continue to pursue government financial support to at least match school teacher pay awards for all college staff. In the interim, we are making a pay recommendation for 2018-19 of 1 per cent, or £250 (whichever is the greater), acknowledging that a number of colleges will be unable to meet this pay recommendation and that those who can should award more.”
UCU head of policy and campaigns Matt Waddup said: "This insulting pay offer is a wholly inadequate response to the crisis in our colleges. The offer will annoy staff who need their employers to be fighting their corner as the pay gap between them and school teachers widens further. It is not right that staff at one college can receive a 5 per cent increase while their colleagues down the road get nothing for doing the same work.
"The AoC cannot continue to believe that warm words are a substitute for fair pay and they risk becoming an irrelevance. This offer increases the likelihood of more waves of strikes after Christmas and puts the ball firmly in the court of colleges who are prepared to follow Capital City College Group’s lead and actually do something to tackle the pay crisis in further education."
AoC 'deeply disappointed'
In their 2018-19 pay claim, the unions representing college employees asked for a pay rise of 5 per cent, or a fixed increase of £1,500 for staff earning less than £30,000 per year.
The AoC represents English colleges in negotiations with the unions representing FE staff: UCU, Unison, Unite, GMB and the National Education Union. Each individual college, however, is free to decide whether to ignore the national deal.
AoC chief executive David Hughes said: “I am deeply disappointed that we cannot make a better pay recommendation than the one we have. Every college leader wants to pay a fair salary to be able to recruit, reward and retain the best people. College staff have had to work harder than ever as the funding cuts have bitten but we cannot recommend a completely unaffordable pay award.
'Overlooked and under-funded'
“Colleges have been overlooked and under-funded for far too long. That’s why we are working in closer partnership than ever before with our union colleagues – including UCU. We need to continue to focus our collective energies on pushing the government for better investment in the sector now and in the spending review. As government, employers and society start to recognise that colleges are a key part of our national infrastructure, it is our job to make a compelling case for the investment to be able to properly fulfil that role.”
After strikes took place at six English colleges last week over pay, UCU is reballoting staff at 26 further colleges. The Trade Union Act 2016, which came into force last year, means that for strike action to be legal, at least 50 per cent of union members in a college have to vote in a ballot, with a majority supporting strike action.
The union is, therefore, targeting colleges where it believes there is still an appetite for industrial action.
Earlier today, the UCU hit out at Facebook, after the social media giant banned it from promoting a video about its ongoing strike ballot.