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UCU threatens industrial action across all Northern Ireland colleges over pay

25 February 2021 | last updated: 26 February 2021

UCU is threatening to take industrial action over staff pay across all six Northern Ireland further education colleges.

The union wrote to Northern Ireland minister for the economy Diane Dodds to declare a dispute between its members and the minister's department. This is the latest in a series of escalations by UCU to secure an increase in pay for  college lecturers. The move comes after Northern Ireland's further education colleges offered lecturers a pay increase of just 7% over the next four years. Overall, the offer amounts to an annual pay rise of just 1.2% over a nine-year period and a real terms pay cut.  

UCU declared a dispute with the Department for the Economy because colleges have said they cannot pay staff more unless Stormont increases funding. The union said it cannot understand why the Department for the Economy seems to value the further education sector and the work of its members less than other teaching staff, and demanded that minister Diane Dodds intervene to achieve fair pay for college lecturers. UCU added that college lecturers have supported their students throughout the pandemic and deserve an increased pay offer just as much as school teachers. 

This month school teachers in Northern Ireland were offered pay increases of 2% for 2019/20 and 2% again for 2020/21, after Education Minister Peter Weir made representations on their behalf and helped secure better wages. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'On top of their usual vital work, our members in colleges across Northern Ireland have worked flat out to support students throughout the pandemic. They deserve fair pay just as much as school teachers and NHS staff. Further education is absolutely central to society under any circumstances, but it will be even more crucial as we recover from Covid-19 and face the challenges of a post-Brexit economy. Yet since 2013/14, college lecturers have received a measly 3.8% pay rise, compared to 11.25% for school teachers over the same period.  

'There is no excuse for our further education members continuing to receive such low pay compared to the rest of the education sector. The refusal of minister Diane Dodds and the Department for the Economy to intervene to secure more funding for colleges and a proper pay rise for college lecturers suggests they do not appreciate the value of FE. If these unfair pay levels continue, staff will be driven out of the sector. Unless the minister moves to address the situation, including making representations to the Department of Finance, we will ballot our members for industrial action.' 

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