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Union demands end to pay 'chaos';FE Focus

Conference delegates are to seek a review of salaries to stem the exodus of staff, reports Francis Beckett.

THE COLLEGE lecturers' union will tomorrow call for a national pay review to sort out the present "shambles".

Delegates to the NATFHE conference will be told that half of all Britain's colleges have not made the pay award recommended this year by the Association of Colleges.

According to a new union survey one in six colleges has imposed a pay freeze. Since 1993, four out of five colleges have failed to award the recommended increase at least once and only one in 10 colleges is using the scales recommended by the AOC. The result, says NATFHE, is that "pay levels in the sector are in free fall".

Lecturers' pay is on average about pound;18,000, and some lecturers are appointed on just pound;12,000. There is a widening pay gap between new staff and longer-serving staff doing the same job.

The proposed review would be rather like the recent Bett inquiry on higher education. It would examine how much college lecturers are paid and how pay levels are determined, and would make recommendations to government. "We believe that the vision of lifelong learning will be lost if order is not restored to the pay chaos," says the union.

Ninety-four of the union's 356 branches responded to its questionnaire. Replies are peppered with comments about the difficulty of recruiting and keeping staff.

"There are considerable problems recruiting IT staff and some problems retaining staff, as the hourly rate is below that of other colleges," reports one college.

"Low pay is causing recruitment problems," says another. "Experienced staff are leaving for industry, commerce and schools, insecurity is rife, there is a feeling of no reward for long hours and stress."

At another college, most lecturers are over 40, the younger lecturers are part-time. The union representative said: "In 10 years the vast bulk will retire and I doubt that there will be hordes queueing to replace us."

One college simply reports: "Morale is at rock bottom - most are trying to leave."

Employment agencies will again come under fire from the conference, with several colleges in the survey complaining that they drive down pay rates for part-timers and supply unsuitable staff.

Delegates will also discuss the turbulent merger talks with the Association of University Teachers, with general secretary Paul Mackney likely to insist that a full merger between the two organisations is the only way forward.

A resolution from Yorkshire and Humberside affirms the "aim of securing a single Trades Union Congress union for post-school educators".

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