UCU writes to colleges demanding better pay deal as figures show staff suffered 24% pay cut

8 September 2017 | last updated: 20 September 2017

Staff in further education colleges in England have seen their pay drop by 24 per cent in real-terms since 2009, reveal new UCU figures.

While the cost of living, expressed through the Retail Price Index (RPI), had increased by 27.6 per cent since 2009, pay had gone up by only 4 per cent. This means that staff have suffered a real-terms drop of 23.6 per cent in their pay. College staff have fared even worse than public sector employees who have received a 6.3 per cent increase since 2009 - a real-terms drop of 21.3%. See tables below.

The figures come as the union writes to all colleges urging them to instruct their negotiators to make an acceptable pay offer at talks later this month (Tuesday 19 September). The union met with the colleges' representatives - the Association of Colleges (AoC) - to discuss its pay claim before the summer, but the AoC said it was not in a position to make a pay offer.

In today's letter* the union warns that it is currently consulting members on their willingness to take industrial action should the AoC's pay offer be unacceptable.

UCU head of further education Andrew Harden said: 'As the cut to real pay for experienced lecturers since 2009 exceeds £8,000 it is little wonder that recruitment and retention issues are rife in our colleges. Things cannot continue as they are and I have written to colleges to ask them to give their negotiators a clear mandate for better pay at talks later this month.'

Annual % change in pay awards and RPI

 

Public sector

FE

RPI

2010

1.1

0.2

4.6

2011

0

0.35

5.2

2012

0

0.7

3.2

2013

1

0.7

3

2014

1

1

2.4

2015

1

0

1

2016

1

1

1.8

2017 (July)

1

?

3.6

Indexed change

  

Public sector

FE

RPI

2009 base

100

100

100

2010

101.1

100.2

104.6

2011

101.1

100.6

110.0

2012

101.1

101.3

113.6

2013

102.1

102.0

117.0

2014

103.1

103.0

119.8

2015

104.2

103.0

121.0

2016

105.2

104.0

123.1

2017 (July)

106.3

104.0

127.6

Total% change

6.3

4.0

27.6


* Dear Principal

When I last wrote to you in May, Association of Colleges (AoC) representatives were due to meet with the Joint Trade Unions to discuss the unions' 2017/18 Pay and Conditions Claim. At that meeting AoC representatives were unable to make an offer on pay in response to the unions' claim.

They explained that, at the time, there was insufficient consensus among AoC members on a pay offer and therefore AoC representatives had no mandate to make an offer on pay. 

Today I write to you in advance of the next meeting between AoC representatives and the Joint Trade Unions (on 19 September) to ensure that meeting is more productive. I ask you to call upon your AoC representatives to respond positively to the unions' claim. I urge you to give them a clear mandate to make an offer on pay that meets the legitimate expectation of staff in further education (FE) that they fall no further behind inflation, and get back a little of what they have lost.

Since I last wrote to you public sector pay has become an issue of national discussion and one that those on all sides of politics accept needs to be addressed. It is clear that staff in FE have suffered more than others in the public sector when it comes to keeping up with inflation. In recent years, when the rest of the public sector have received 1% a year, staff in FE have often received increases below 1% or even had a pay freeze. Since 2010, pay has risen by 5.1% across the rest of the public sector, while pay for staff in FE has risen by just 3.3%. This cannot continue.

UCU is currently consulting its members on their willingness to take industrial action in support of the Joint Trade Unions' claim should the AoC's pay offer be unacceptable. In order to avoid the likelihood of industrial action across the sector this autumn, I urge you to call upon the AoC to:

  • Make a pay offer that protects and preserves the sector's ability to attract and retain the committed and experienced staff that colleges need in order to deliver for their learners and the country
  • Campaign together with the trade unions for increased funding for the sector to enable it to fulfil its mission and promise to deliver a skilled post-Brexit workforce.

As the cut to real pay for experienced lecturers since 2009 exceeds £8,000 it is little wonder that recruitment and retention issues are rife across the sector. We all know that things cannot continue as they are. Your staff are looking to you to stand up for better pay in FE. Please do what you can to encourage the AoC to make a pay offer that will meet the expectations of staff across the sector.

Andrew Harden
Head of further education
University and College Union

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