FE - better pay and better jobs campaign

FE pay in England

In England the vast majority of colleges are members of the Association of Colleges (AoC), an employers' organisation which negotiates with UCU and other recognised trade unions (UNISON, ATL, AMiE, UNITE and GMB) in the National Joint Forum (NJF) to produce recommendations on pay and conditions for individual colleges to adopt.

Members working in further education in England have been getting a raw deal from their employers for too long: FE fights back

Latest pay headlines

UCU has welcomed a U-turn from the Association of Colleges (AoC) over pay talks for staff in further education. At the start of the month AoC said that it would not discuss a pay claim for 2018/19 while UCU members were still in dispute at some colleges.

UCU and Sandwell College have negotiated a sector-leading pay deal worth 6.25% over 3 years, increasing to 6.5% if further growth in student numbers is achieved: UCU and Sandwell College agree sector-leading pay deal

Members at Sandwell College had been due to take strike action which was suspended after the positive talks.

UCU members at Epping Forest College are taking strike action in a row over pay after seeing their had seen pay fall by 25% in real terms since 2009.

UCU members at ten colleges will take strike action throughout May and June as part of a row over pay.

UCU's Sean Vernell argues in this week's TES that national pay bargaining mechanisms are failing the sector.

The latest college accounts show 17 college principals earned over £200,000 in 2016/17 and over a third enjoyed a pay rise of 10% or more. 

Strikes at seven colleges today in row over pay and conditions

Further strike dates confimed

UCU members at 11 London colleges and Sandwell College in the West Midlands will take a second wave of strike action in an ongoing row over pay. The colleges affected and dates of strikes are:


Strike dates

City and Islington College

27/28/29 March

College of Haringey Enfield and North East London

27/28/29 March

Westminster Kingsway College

27/28/29 March

Croydon College

27/28/29 March

Lambeth College

27/28/29 March

Sandwell College

27/28/29 March

Hackney Community College

27/29 March; 18 April

Redbridge College

27/29 March; 18 April

Tower Hamlets College

27/29 March; 18 April

Havering College

27/28 March

City of Westminster College

28/29 March

College of North West London  

28/29 March

Walkouts for fair pay

UCU members in 14 colleges across the UK took strike action on 28 February and 1 March over pay and working conditions. Despite the freezing cold the mood on picket lines was determined and confident and members were heartened by solidarity from university colleagues striking over pensions and from across UCU and the wider movement. In London, FE strikers joined the massive March for Education which ended with a packed rally at Westminster and heard rousing speeches of support from John McDonnell, Angel Rayner, Sally Hunt, NUS president Shakira Martin and many other MP.

(Click in the box below and scroll down for updates from the strike action)

Live Blog FE strikes 2018

Strike dates  confirmed

Members at 13 London colleges and Sandwell College in Birmingham will be asked to walk out over pay on Wednesday 28 February and Thursday 1 March. Staff at Sunderland College will walk out on 28 February while negotiations are ongoing at Sussex College Hastings.

Sally Hunt said: 'The overwhelming support for strike action at these colleges shows the depth of anger about continued attempts to hold down pay in further education. Strikes are always a last resort for staff, but years of derisory pay offers have failed to keep up with the rising cost of living and patience is wearing thin.'

Disruption to hit 16 colleges as staff overwhelmingly back strikes over pay.

Overall, 92% of staff at affected colleges voted for strike action. The average turnout was 63%. Action is due to begin in the coming weeks, with the majority of colleges planning a two-day walkout. Full details of action at each of the colleges will be confirmed in the coming days.

Industrial action ballots

The full ballot results are available for the colleges which balloted for action. The result of the ballot means 16 colleges will be hit by strike action*:

  • Capital City College Group (City of Islington College, Westminster Kingsway College, CONEL)
  • Croydon College
  • Epping Forest College
  • Havering College
  • Lambeth College
  • New City College
  • Richmond College
  • Sandwell College
  • Sunderland College
  • Sussex Coast College Hastings
  • United College Group (City of Westminster College, College of North West London)

*The ballot at South Thames College Group (Kingston College, Carshalton College, South Thames College, Merton College) failed to reach the minimum turnout required for action to proceed.

2017-18 claim: 1% offer for staff

The employers made a pay recommendation of 1%, or £250 for the lowest paid staff, at formal pay talks on 19 September 2017. UCU said the significantly below inflation offer refuses to address the 23.6% real-terms fall in wages that FE staff have endured since 2008.
UCU head of further education, Andrew Harden, said: 'Members will be extremely disappointed that once again the employer offer of 1% is substantially below inflation and fails to address the years of pay suppression which further education staff have endured.
'Although the pledge to campaign with joint trade unions for more investment in the sector is welcome and necessary, it does not ease the immediate hardship faced by many dedicated staff. There is now clear agreement on both sides that pay in further education is a problem, but the real question for the sector is what we are going to do about it.'

UCU response to 1% pay offer for further education staff

UCU's consultative ballot of members in FE closed on 29 September 2017 with 75% of members who responded indicating that they would be prepared to take industrial action if the Association of Colleges did not make a recommendation on pay that was satisfactory.

Undermining national bargaining

The trade unions formally presented their FE England joint pay and conditions claim for 2017/18 to Association of Colleges (AoC) representatives at a meeting of the National Joint Forum (NJF) in May 2017 having submitted the claim document to the AoC a month earlier.

At the first negotiating meeting the AoC representatives said that it was too early for the AoC to respond to both the pay and non-pay elements of the claim. They stated that this was because at this stage there was no clear consensus amongst the AoC's membership as to what their response should be.

Although they indicated that further work would be done over the summer in order to be able to respond in September UCU negotiators made it clear that members would be extremely disappointed that the AoC were not in a position to make an offer after having had the claim for a month. They told the AoC they were at risk of breaking national bargaining completely as many members already felt that the process was not meaningful. The AoC were warned that if they did not respond with a meaningful offer then they would be undermining the future of national bargaining.

On the same day as the talks, UCU's Head of Further Education, Andrew Harden wrote to all FE principals in England saying:

'I believe that no one in our sector can be pleased at the plight of pay for college staff over recent years. Pay for college staff is now 21.5% lower in real terms than it was in 2009. For an experienced lecturer on point 8 of the scale this equates to a loss of £7,850 per annum.'


'For the vast majority of those who teach in FE, the first thing that attracted them was the difference they can make for their students. Pay in FE is a problem when staff who love teaching in FE are leaving not because they want to, but because they can't afford to stay. No one can believe it to be right that the passion and commitment of staff like these be rewarded with further reductions, in real terms, to their pay. This year's claim reflects the legitimate expectation of staff that they fall no further behind and get back a little of what they have lost.'

The full text of the letter to principals can be found here. [175kb]

It is clear that the national bargaining process for FE in England is not working in the interests of members. In an effort to create pressure for more meaningful national bargaining, UCU has been supporting branches who have chosen to submit the national pay claim locally together with additional claim elements that relate to local issues. More information on issuing a national plus local claim and successes, including on pay, can be found here .

This year's national pay claim aims to reduce the CEO/principal to staff pay ratio. To find out how much your principal earns in total and how many times the average lecturers pay they get, check UCU's Rate for The Job website.

Branches are asked to use the principals' pay information to campaign in support of the national claim and to consider submitting it at college level with local claim elements. All locally submitted claims must be shared with your regional office before submission.

FE England joint trade unions pay and conditions claim 2017-18

The headlines of the joint claim are as follows:

Cost of living claim:

  • RPI, as of 1 August 2017, plus 3% on all pay points with a minimum uplift of £900. This also aims to reduce the CEO/Principal : staff pay ratio
  • Foundation living wage to be the minimum wage for and FE colleges to become accredited foundation living wage employers.


  • an increase in proportion of contracted hours for preparation
  • a minimum CPD entitlement for all staff of 30 hours.

Class size:

  • a nationally agreed policy that specifies appropriate maximum class sizes be primarily and fundamentally based on educational considerations and not overridden by financial ones.

Agency staff:

  • a nationally agreed policy that specifies that agency staff should only be used for emergency cover in respect of all staffing groups.

Non-lecturer curriculum delivery staff:

Nationally agreed guidelines for colleges on non-lecturer curriculum delivery staff including:

  • job descriptions and roles which clearly set out the difference between lecturer and non-lecturer curriculum delivery roles.
  • determining appropriate salary scales
  • appropriate work load/caseloads for different non-lecturer curriculum delivery roles.
  • lone, remote and anti-social hours working
  • clear support and training route identified into full lecturer qualification or status should the individual want this.

The full text of the joint trade unions claim can be found here: FE England joint union claim 2017-18 [238kb]

A new approach to collective bargaining in the further education (FE) sector

UCU has begun to approach collective bargaining in FE in a new way. Read why the new approach is necessary, what it offers and how you can get involved: National Plus in FE - winning better pay and conditions for members

National Plus in FE

Looking at UCU's strategy for better bargaining in English further education.

FE England: 2016-17 pay round

Information on the 2016-17 pay round for English colleges.

FE England: 2015-16 pay round

Information on the 2015-16 pay round for English colleges.

FE England: 2014-15 pay round

Information on the 2014-15 pay round for English colleges.

FE England: 2013-14 pay round

Information on the 2013-14 pay round for English colleges.