A review by Frank Horisk, who led the employers' side in pay bargaining until his retirement three years ago, shows that further education lecturers in Northern Ireland have fallen well behind schoolteachers in the 1990s. They had salary increases totalling just over 25 per cent between 1991 and 1999, while pay in schools rose by 35 per cent on average.
In 1991 a schoolteacher with two promotion points earned pound;690 less than an average FE lecturer, but by the end of the decade was pound;1,760 ahead. A senior lecturer now earns pound;28,000, the same as a teacher with three promotion points.
Staff at the top of the lecturers' scale have also fallen a further pound;2,000 per year behind their peers in other professions.
On the other hand, principal lecturers and heads of department earn relatively high salaries of around pound;35,000-pound;36,000. The report notes this is "considerably above the highest-paid teachers in schools (pound;32,460)".
Mr Horisk criticises the structure of FE salaries, noting that only four lecturers are on the two lowet points in the pay scale whereas 1,068, 84 per cent of the total, are on the highest point of pound;24,335. There is "severe bunching" at the top, where the average age of lecturers is 46; only "a tiny minority" are under 30.
Mr Horisk adds that "there is no mechanism ... for recognising exceptional work and ... very limited opportunities to reward staff for carrying additional responsibilities."
Jimmy McKeown, regional official of lecturers' union NATFHE, said the extra money pumped into FE recently had been spent on administration to support incorporation and a 15 per cent pay rise last year for directors and their deputies. "It is time our members got their reward. Too many people are stuck at the top of the scale with no hope of promotion or progression. The report shows that to be the stark truth."
Mr McKeown said the pay drop was compounded by the decline in the number of full-time lecturers from around 2,400 in 198990 to just over 1,700.
"I think almost certainly our members will get steamed up about this. They are likely to take a firm line this year in the bargaining process."
The full report can be obtained from the Association of Northern Ireland
Colleges on 01846 657512