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Union calls a halt to contracts dispute

Lecturers have returned to work at Leicester college after a four-week strike over new contracts.

The dispute began after the college introduced voluntary contracts which reduced holiday entitlement by four days per year in return for a one-off payment of pound;1,800 for those staff who agreed to sign.

Natfhe, the lecturers' union, suspended its action on Monday after both sides agreed to work towards a single contract that would cover all staff.

Russ Escritt, regional official for the union, said: "We are pleased that we have made sufficient progress to enable the suspension of our members' strike.

"We have now agreed a means to return to a negotiated contract.

"We hope we can resolve the outstanding issues as quickly as possible."

The union has won assurances about the workload of college staff under any new contract, There will also be further discussions about pay scales and possible improvements for staff who work part-time.

Maggie Galliers, principal of Leicester college, said: "I am looking forward to constructive negotiations with Natfhe, now that the lecturers have agreed to return to college and students' interests are assured."

The lecturers' strike action led to the suspension of the college's schools links programmes, but managers said most of the rest of its courses were continuing to run as normal.

Lecturers at Otley college are preparing to strike for the first time in its history. Staff at the agricultural college, near Ipswich in Suffolk, say they do not have enough time in their 37-hour working week to do the administrative work their jobs require.

Will Fawkes, Natfhe branch secretary, said: "I think we do an extra 10 to 15 hours a week."

Lecturers at Otley have voted in favour of a strike but the union is still trying to negotiate an agreement with the employers.

John Pearson, principal at Otley, said: "I've given 72 more hours than last year. For months I've been suggesting this should go to arbitration."

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