Unions have accused the Association of Colleges of “playing silly games” in a row over pay claim negotiations.
The University and College Union and Unison claim that, at a meeting of the National Joint Forum last week, the AoC refused to consider the national pay claim for 2018-19 while local pay disputes are ongoing.
UCU members at 10 colleges are due to walk out for up to seven days in May and June over this year’s pay claims.
The further education unions have branded the move by the AoC not to begin discussions until current pay disputes are resolved as an “unnecessary provocation”. The FE trade unions set out a national claim for 2018-19 demanding a pay rise of 5 per cent or £1,500, whichever is greater.
Message of 'solidarity'
In a letter to AoC chief executive David Hughes, signed by the joint secretaries of the National Joint Forum Trade Union Side, the unions expressed solidarity with staff currently taking action in pursuit of better pay and conditions.
They also warned that it was “unacceptable” for the AoC to attempt to put pressure on members of one union by refusing to discuss the joint claim, and said the approach would damage industrial relations. The letter said the decision risked undermining “the credibility and relevance of the AoC to the sector”.
In response, Mr Hughes said: "Whilst a small number of local UCU branches are taking action on the national pay claim, it would not be appropriate to open negotiations on the 2018-19 claim. We have written to all the unions to explain our position and we are optimistic that these few remaining disputes will be resolved soon, allowing us to begin negotiations for the next pay round.”
'Contempt for the workforce'
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said the AoC’s refusal to consider next year’s pay claim is "inflammatory and deeply unhelpful".
She added: “Attempting to put pressure on striking staff in this way is completely unacceptable. The sector needs effective national bargaining where decisions on pay and conditions are binding. Unless the AoC urgently changes its position, we will be submitting the national claim at a local level.”
Unison's head of education, Jon Richards, added that support staff had received several years of pay rises below inflation. "Rather than playing silly games, the AoC should be concentrating on working with the unions to secure increased funding and pay for a decimated further education sector, not starting new squabbles that only serve to weaken its position," he said.
“Now the fact that college heads appear to be refusing to sit down to talk about pay with the unions shows an astonishing degree of contempt for their hard-working and dedicated workforce.”