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Taking action in higher education

Risk of dispute in colleges after 0.5% pay offer withdrawn

20 May 2013 | last updated: 10 December 2015

Unions are warning England's further education colleges of the possibility of a major dispute after national employer representatives, the Association of Colleges (AoC), took the unprecedented step of withdrawing a 0.5% pay offer.

After unanimous rejection by the unions, the AoC removed the offer from the table in its entirety and has given no commitment to further negotiations. Given that this leaves the very real prospect of no pay offer at all for college staff for the next academic year, the trade unions are pressing for a return to constructive negotiations.

At the meeting on Thursday (16 May), all trade unions* involved in talks over pay for college staff next year (2013/14), unanimously rejected the 0.5% pay offer on the grounds that not only was 0.5% inadequate but it also had significant strings attached -  namely endorsing moves to worsen pay and conditions at local colleges.

The trade unions say allowing local discussions on pay and conditions would give the employers more power to try and impose worse pay and conditions and move towards performance-related pay.

The national pay recommendation for this year (2012/13) already includes a clause supporting local discussions where colleges have particularly challenging circumstances. The trade unions argue that provides sufficient flexibility.

Pay awards for further education staff in recent years:

  • 2012 - 0.7%
  • 2011 - £200 for staff earning less than £21,000 and £125 for those earning above
  • 2010 - 0.2%

University and College Union head of further education, Barry Lovejoy, said: 'The employer's action is unprecedented and places the whole national bargaining framework for colleges in jeopardy. The AoC now seems to want to throw pay as well as conditions back to local employers. By withdrawing this offer, they are risking a dispute that could be widespread and cause long-term disruption to colleges. For the sake of the sector, rather than taking their ball home, we urge employers to engage meaningfully in negotiation.'

UNISON Head of Colleges, Christine Lewis, said: 'It is sad that college employers are prepared to see the living standards of their staff fall even further and the Living Wage abandoned, over a statement that asks national negotiators to endorse local detriment for their members. We can only hope that colleges urge their negotiators back to the table'.

Barry Lovejoy and Christine Lewis were speaking in their capacity as secretariat for the trade union side.

* Association of Managers in Education, Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), GMB, UNISON, Unite, and University and College Union.