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Walk-out to win Welsh parity

Teachers in the only sixth-form college in Wales demand equality with English colleagues. Gary Bell reports

LECTURERS at Wales' only sixth-form college are holding a series of one-day strikes after being denied performance-related pay.

Staff at St David's RC College in Cardiff staged their first walk-out on Tuesday.

The lecturers, members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, meet the required standards for the extra pound;2,000 given to teachers who pass the pay threshold.

But the money is given only to school teachers in Wales, whereas in England sixth-form college staff are also eligible.

Lecturers at St David's are in a similar financial position to that of their colleagues in general FE colleges - 12 per cent behind school teachers.

Derek Bodey, principal of St David's, said he could not afford the bonuses because the Welsh Assembly does not offer the additional funding, which is given to sixth-form colleges in England to cover the pay rises.

Mr Bodey said: "St David's governors have not received the separate funding from the Assembly.

"I have a lot of sympathy with the teaching staff but, like the governors, I am not convinced this is the way to draw attention to this issue. I think it would be more positive to work with the Assembly on the FE pay initiative."

Rex Phillips, NASUWT's Welsh official, said that the union estimates that paying the bonus to all the eligible lecturers would cost St David's pound;110,000.

He said: "That's all the additional funding that would have been needed.

It's a very small amount to resolve this problem.

"What we want is to be able to sit down around the table with Jane Davidson (Welsh education minister) and resolve this problem. But the first thing is getting her to recognise there is a problem."

Ms Davidson said: "Colleges are independent corporations. It is therefore the college's responsibility to fund lecturers' and support staff's pay adequately."

Ms Davidson has announced an extra pound;9 million to be spent on FE lecturers and support staff, which comes with a condition that colleges give a 3 per cent across-the-board pay rise.

The union calculates that this would give the college pound;79,000, which it says is not enough to cover performance-related pay. It is also concerned that the criteria imposed by the Assembly would undermine its ability to negotiate with the college.

Mr Phillips said: "We want the college to have the money without any strings attached. Then it is the responsibility of the college to prioritise what it does. Ms Davidson has to realise that St David's is unique in Wales."

In a letter to Ms Davidson, Mr Phillips asked the Welsh education minister to solve the St David's pay dispute as a special case before attempting to redress the wider inequality in FE lecturers' and school teachers' pay across Wales.

He said no dates have been set for future action but teachers were prepared to strike again if fresh talks did not take place.

St David's employs 70 teaching staff and has about 1,100 students.

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