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Unions say report helps pay campaign

Lecturers have pounced on one of the findings of the Foster review of further education saying it bolsters their claim to be paid as much as schoolteachers.

Natfhe, the lecturers' union which staged a national one-day strike on Wednesday, singled out comments on developing the FE workforce in Sir Andrew Foster's report.

The report, while not directly addressing the issue of lecturer pay, said:

"It is most concerning and worrying that the sector that is meant to be having a major impact on developing the nation's skills does not have a good plan for developing the skills of its own workforce, so much of which is casualised or ageing."

Jon Bryan, chair of Natfhe's national FE committee and a lecturer in Newcastle, said: "Natfhe members continually have to take strike action to try and secure decent conditions and pay. It is hoped that this report will change government thinking and priorities and start to reward staff in colleges with fair pay."

However Natfhe is fiercely opposing Sir Andrew's proposal to let private firms bid to take over failing colleges.

Paul Mackney, the union's general secretary, said: "Natfhe is vehemently opposed to private involvement in running or taking over colleges," he said.

"We know that the record of private companies in education, whose first priority is always profit rather than education and training for learners'

benefit, is poor."

Wednesday's strike took place after lecturers rejected a 2.8 per cent offer from the Association of Colleges. Natfhe says the deal fails to reduce the estimated 10 per cent pay gap with schools.

Pickets were held at colleges and a protest rally was staged in Birmingham to coincide with the association's 10th annual conference in the city.

The unions used 20 coaches to bring protesters in from across the country, with others arriving by train and car.

As FE Focus went to press, the union was planning a march-past of the conference centre, timed to coincide with a speech to conference delegates by Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary .

Barry Lovejoy, the union's head of colleges, said colleges from at least 22 general FE colleges had joined the action.

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