All FE staff must "seize the opportunity" to get a better pay deal, according to Michael MacNeil, national head of bargaining and negotiations at the University and College Union (UCU).
This year, FE unions have asked for a sector-wide increase in pay of £1 per hour for every staff member, along with equal pay for women and permanent contracts for staff under temporary contracts.
The claim, submitted to the Association of Colleges (AoC), also said that staff should be paid no less than the national living wage of £8.25 per hour outside of London, and £9.40 per hour in London.
The unions' similar £1 per hour claim in last year's pay negotiations was rejected by the AoC, which said colleges were unable to afford an increase. This stand-off resulted in two national strikes in colleges, the most recent one by members of the UCU and Unison. The two unions claimed that more than 200 colleges were affected.
"There is a conversation taking place about pay. And about how we get more of it," Mr MacNeil told the UCU Congress in Liverpool yesterday. "We know, from our reports, [and] from our research, that current national negotiating machinery is simply not delivering.
"We know that when the AoC recommended a 1 per cent increase in their 2014-15 pay round, only 29 per cent of colleges complied. We also know that few colleges operate the eight-point scale that was recommended at the national level. One in five lecturers is now paid outside the recommended eight-point scale."
'Equality at the heart of our agenda'
Mr MacNeil said it was "shocking" that many employers were reluctant to challenge the levels of casualisation and temporary staff in the FE sector.
"It’s simply shocking that the national employers refuse to do anything meaningful about the disgraceful levels of casualisation in your sector," he said. "In further education more than a third of teaching is done by someone on an insecure contract. It’s time for colleges to start tackling the problems of their making, not of yours. They call it flexibility, we call it exploitation."
Mr MacNeil said that more needed to be done to challenge gender inequality in the sector. "I’m really proud of our work to ensure that equality is at the heart of our collective bargaining agenda," he added. "Why? Well, quality consultants argue that there is a good business case for closing the gender pay gap. I’m sure there is. But is that really the reason why we want to address it? Does there really have to be a business reason? I say not. I say there is a higher argument: we want the gender pay gap closed simply because it is wrong. It’s wrong that women earn less than men."
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