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Further education staff demand fairer pay deal from employer

2 April 2009

The six further education trade unions - ACM, ATL, GMB, UCU, UNISON, UNITE - have submitted a pay claim of 6% for the next academic year (2009/2010) or a minimum salary increase of £2,000 for the lowest paid.

The catch-up claim covers over 250,000 workers in English colleges including lecturers, learning support staff, cleaners, caterers, librarians, security staff and lab technicians. The unions believe that further education workers will be the heart of tackling the recession, as people seek to refresh skills to gain new employment, and must be properly rewarded for their efforts.
Further education staff work some of the longest hours in the UK, with the vast majority (92%) doing more than their contracted hours. Lecturers in further education colleges earn, on average, 6% less than schoolteachers. Some colleges have a minimum pay rate of just £5.98 per hour and many have refused to honour a recommended minimum pay rise for the lowest paid staff.
Barry Lovejoy, joint trade union side secretary and head of further education at UCU, said: 'With millions of adults looking to retrain during the economic downturn, further education staff have never been more important to this country. It's time we invested in their skills and paid them a fair wage for the sterling work they do. They work some of the longest hours in the country, yet their pay has risen at a much slower rate than the cost of living. This pay claim goes someway to addressing that shortfall.'

Chris Fabby, joint trade union side secretary and UNISON national officer, said: 'A 6% rise will mean approximately £13 extra per week for the average cleaner working in further education. This is not enough to help workers cope with the cost of everyday essentials such as food and fuel, which are still running high. The lowest paid staff need the protection that a minimum salary uplift gives them.
'The government has spent billions of pounds bailing out the bankers. We are not asking for billions. We are just calling for a decent wage increase for some of the lowest paid workers in the public sector.'
The employers' body, the Association of Colleges (AOC), makes a recommendation to individual further education colleges on pay. In the past there have been problems because a significant number of colleges have chosen not to implement the agreed pay recommendation. Some even failed to offer any annual increase.

Background information

  • The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) shows that in the decade to 2008 average earnings across the economy rose 47% and by 41.3% in the public. However, pay for further education lecturers and college managers has only increased 21.9% in that time.
  • Since the implementation of the harmonised pay spine in August 2005 prices have increased by 17.5% while the AoC recommended increases to pay and allowances have only totalled 10.2%, resulting in a real terms pay cut to staff in further education of 7.3% in that time. 
  • The ASHE survey shows the gap in pay between school teachers and further education lecturers and managers remains stubbornly high with further education employees still 6% behind. 
  • The Learning and Skills Network survey of further education staff satisfaction showed that over 92% of further education staff work beyond their contracted hours and just under half are unable to achieve a satisfactory work/life balance.
Last updated: 11 December 2015