Unions submit 5% pay claim ahead of July pay talks

27 June 2018

Trade unions representing staff in further education colleges in England have today submitted a pay claim of 5% for the 2018/19 academic year to the employers' representatives the Association of Colleges (AoC).

The unions* want a guaranteed minimum increase of £1,500 for the lowest paid staff where a 5% rise is lower than £1,500. They are also calling for colleges to pay the living wage of £8.75 (£10.20 in London) and become accredited living wage employers.

The unions originally set out the claim at a meeting with the AoC at the start of May, but the AoC said it would not consider a claim while some colleges were still in dispute with UCU. Later that month the AoC backed down and said it would consider a claim, which the unions have set out in today's letter^.

Ahead of the pay talks on Friday 13 July, the unions said they were pleased the employers have recognised the importance of better pay in the sector. On Monday the AoC said it was unacceptable that teachers in colleges were earning £7,000 a year less than their counterparts in schools.

The unions said it was time for the employers to make an above inflation offer that goes some way towards making up for a decade of real-terms cuts to pay. Staff who have been awarded AoC pay deals over the past 10 years have seen their pay fall by 25% in real terms.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'The AoC's recognition that pay in further education is a problem is to be welcomed and we therefore hope this year's pay talks can be concluded quickly and satisfactorily.

'Staff will rightly expect an offer that makes up for a decade of real-terms cuts and goes some way to addressing the unacceptable gap between staff pay in colleges and schools.'


* UCU, UNISON, Unite, GMB and the National Education Union

^ Letter from the unions to the AoC:

27 June 2018

Dear Gerry

On 1 May 2018, the joint trade unions submitted their heads of claim for 2018/19 to Association of Colleges (AoC) representatives at a National Joint Forum (NJF) officer level meeting. That claim focuses exclusively on pay and is:

  • 5% on all pay points with a minimum uplift of £1,500.
  • Foundation living wage to be the minimum wage and FE colleges to become accredited foundation living wage employers

Staff in FE, who received all AoC recommended increases, have suffered a staggering real terms cut in pay of over 25%since 2009. In cash terms, that means a £2,484 pay cut on the bottom point, rising to over £9,000 for experienced lecturers and more for those higher up the scale. Many have suffered worse where few or no increases have been awarded over those years.

We note the AoC's comments in response to our 2017/18 claim, in particular:

"We understand and accept much of the Joint Trade Unions' argument that there is a need for better pay in FE, with clear evidence that median pay in colleges is falling further behind that in schools."

There is a unanimous acceptance among further education participants (staff, learners and leaders), stakeholders and commentators, that there is an urgent need for increased investment in FE staff pay.

At a time when pay settlements in the rest of the public sector are no longer subject to a 1% cap, there is a real danger that FE falls further behind. We all surely agree that this would be disastrous for the sector's ability to recruit and retain the committed and experienced staff that colleges rely on and will make existing problems worse.

All of the joint trade unions remain committed to meaningful national bargaining and firmly believe that this year's talks must focus exclusively on addressing pay for all staff in FE colleges. We see no need to propagate elaborate argument on what is an uncontested point - that there is a problem with pay in FE.

The joint trade unions are more interested in what is to be done about pay in FE. We are looking for a different approach from the AoC for the 2018/19 round. An approach that makes a declaration of the true worth of staff in FE, an approach that accepts the problem and proposes a solution.

Ultimately the responsibility for delivering better pay and better jobs in FE rests with the sector's leadership. With a skills shortage, Brexit looming and acceptance that FE pay is a problem, there has never been a better time for the sector's leadership to stand up and demand the sector's worth. FE staff look to their leaders to make a statement on pay worthy of the sector's ambition and their value.

We call on the AoC to make an offer that meets our members' reasonable expectation for an above inflation pay rise and catch up from a decade of real cuts in pay.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Harden (UCU)
Leigh Powell (UNISON)
Joint Secretaries NJF Trade Union Side

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