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FEC decisions, 2 February 2024

19 February 2024

UCU's further education committee (FEC) met on Friday 2 February and made several important decisions about this year's national pay campaign and claim. The key decisions are reported in this communication. 

FEC considered the success of the nationally coordinated campaigns over the last few years under the heading of 'Respect FE'. This campaign has seen more branches growing their membership, making demands on their employer, running effective campaigns, and winning for members.

'Respect FE' was built on UCU's core demands of improving pay, manageable workloads, binding national bargaining and professional respect.

FEC has decided now is the time to build on the experiences of 'Respect FE' and launch a new national campaign under the heading of 'Levelling up the Sector'.   

The new campaign has several connected strands with the aim of a new national agreement in FE on sector wide national bargaining where the outcomes mean no branch or member is left behind.

'Levelling up the Sector' will seek to increase the unions political influence, particularly with the Labour Party in the run up to the general election. We will organise a parliamentary lobby and a briefing pack for MPs. UCU will make the case for binding national bargaining as well as pay parity with schoolteachers and national agreements on workloads like those in sixth form and schools in England.

We will develop a new communication strategy based on 'Levelling up the Sector' that will support the roll out of the campaign. Branches will be invited to briefings to discuss and develop the campaign and feedback to the FEC. Alongside branch briefings, regular communications explaining the new strategy will take place, supported by a new FAQ. UCU will also develop new 'Levelling up the Sector' campaign resources.

'Levelling Up the Sector' will require an industrial campaign which builds on the success of Respect FE. Where members voted for strike action, they received bigger pay rises and better agreements on workload. We will need to ballot members for action again. FEC discussed whether to engage in disaggregated ballots (where members vote for strike action just in their branch - but they need 50% of members in the branch to vote) or an aggregated ballot (where all FE members vote but no one can strike unless 50% of members nationally vote). FEC voted in favour of an aggregated national ballot to enable national strike action in September. UCU hasn't organised a national aggregate ballot on this basis before. We will obtain and circulate legal advice on how best to organise a national aggregate ballot. We will also communicate FEC decisions on the relationship between the national campaign and any local campaign branches are engaged in.

In support of the aggregate national ballot branches will be encouraged to proactively campaign in support of it and appoint 'get the vote out' (GTVO) contacts in their branch. There will also be support for branches to organise and build their membership as the strategy rolls out.

FEC agreed that on pay we should be demanding an above inflation pay increase, to start to close the gap with school teachers pay, negotiate a minimum starting salary for teachers as well as national workload agreements on managing guided learning, class sizes and admin time and an agreement on binding national pay bargaining. The aim will be to agree the joint claim with the other FE unions in the coming weeks and submit it in March.

Finally, after reading this update you may have questions and/or want some clarification regarding the FEC strategy. I will be developing an FAQ so please send questions and comments to me so I can collate, respond, and put on the UCU website. You can contact me here.

The next meeting of the FEC is Friday 8 March.

Also look out for further communications on the new strategy in the coming weeks as well as the dates and times of the branch briefings. 

Best wishes

Paul Bridge
UCU head of further education

Last updated: 19 February 2024