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Third day of strike action at FE colleges

15 September 2006 | last updated: 15 December 2015

Northern Ireland's 16 further education colleges are expected to be shut down next Tuesday as a result of more strike action by lecturers. This will be the third strike in recent weeks. Further strike action is planned for October and November.

Lecturers took strike action for two days last May and have a range of work-to rule actions running in colleges. The industrial action is part of a campaign by the lecturers for pay parity with teachers in schools. The action also includes a work to rule and a refusal to co-operate with government proposals to merge colleges into six 'super colleges' by 2007.

The strikes and other forms of industrial action follow a ballot by lecturers' union UCU in which 78% of members have voted for strike action and 89% for action short of strike.

As on previous occasions UCU members are planning to picket colleges from early morning and the union is planning at lunchtime picket and rally at the headquarters of the Department and Learning in Belfast.

UCU regional official Jim McKeown said: 'The lecturers are justified in demanding equal pay with school-teachers. The employers accept that to be the case but still they and the government won't pay out. For years they have refused to make payments they had agreed to in 2001.

'They are now rubbing salt in the wound by refusing to make any pay offer for this year. Lecturers have been due a pay increase from the start of September 2006 yet the employers are refusing to make any offer. It is grossly unfair.'

He continued: 'Government and the employers expect college teachers to co-operate with college mergers and to deal with every initiative the government throws at the sector - yet they haven't the decency to pay their teachers a just wage. The only way lecturers can show their disgust at the way they are being treated is by taking industrial action.

'Government and the colleges can settle this matter - the colleges have the money. Colleges have massive reserves which can be used to settle this issue. Their refusal to move on the issue is only fuelling resentment and low morale across the sector. Lecturers are fed up at their treatment and are determined to keep the industrial action going until they get fair pay.'

Schoolteachers in Northern Ireland have an upper pay spine leading to a salary of £32,628; and two thirds have additional promotion and annual allowances ranging from £1638 - £10,572. They have a six-point salary scale.

Further education lecturers have a ten-point salary scale; lecturers at the top earn £29,364 and a further threshold payment of £2337. Only 25% of lecturers gain promotion.

College lecturers in Wales have pay parity with schoolteachers.