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Report on UCU special FE sector conference, 13 April 2024

18 April 2024

Over 100 delegates representing more than 80 FE branches in England met on Saturday 13 April 2024 to decide the union's pay strategy and whether a national aggregate ballot would be called in 2024/25.

You can read full details of the motions passed here.

The conference business was organised into different sections covering strategy, a national aggregate ballot, the campaign, and branch autonomy.


Regarding strategy, special FESC rejected the FEC strategy and called on the union to immediately implement the 'New Deal for FE' strategy and to continue with the Respect FE campaign around the 2024/25 national claim.

The joint union claim, which was submitted last month can be found here.

Aggregate ballot

Regarding a national aggregate ballot, special FESC resolved there would not be an aggregated ballot this year; specifically, a ballot in June [2024] and action starting in September [2024]. As part of the nationally coordinated campaign under Respect FE, UCU will use local pay claims to build branches in preparation for a future aggregated ballot. The timing of that future aggregate ballot will be subject to branch consultation and the decision of a special FESC.


In support of the national pay claim this year, special FESC approved new campaign materials will be developed that show the wide range of pay disparity in FE. Other materials outlining the importance of binding national bargaining and a petition covering pay, workloads and binding national agreements will be produced as part of the campaign. Building branch organisation and density will be a central part of the campaign.

Branch autonomy

There was strong support for branch autonomy and decision making at special FESC, and this was reflected in the decisions made regarding branches retaining the ability to be excluded from national campaigns based on their particular local circumstances and that until binding national agreements were in place at sector level, branches will not be forced into disputes, or an aggregate ballot, or be subject to any national ratification of their local agreements if those agreements have been endorsed by their branch members.

Next steps

The decisions resolved by the special FESC now mean UCU can focus on developing one of the most comprehensive and joined up campaign strategies bringing together our industrial, political, organising and communications work. The pay talks with the Association of Colleges (AoC) start in May [2024] and we are expecting the announcement of a general election soon, where UCU will advocate and lobby hard for a new deal for FE. Branches and members are central to our success as a trade union and the vibrancy and health of the union's democracy was demonstrated yet again by the levels of interest and participation on the special FESC. Look out for updates on the roll out of campaign and the pay talks in the next few weeks.

Paul Bridge
UCU head of further education

Last updated: 18 April 2024