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UCU: fighting back in FE

11 May 2018 | last updated: 15 May 2018

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, writes to members on fighting back against years of cuts in English FE and the employers' representatives refusal to negotiate a pay increase for 2018/19

Dear colleague

For years, we have negotiated in good faith with the Association of Colleges (AoC) for annual pay increases. 

Yet even the small increases they offer are only paid in a minority of colleges. The result is you are getting poorer. Even where members have received the recommended AoC award, pay is now worth 25% less than in 2009.

Now the AoC has gone one step further, declaring they will not negotiate a pay increase for 2018/19 with the further education (FE) unions while local disputes, aimed at improving pay and conditions continue.

We are astounded at this. Just last year the AoC apologised for not being able to offer more than a 1% increase in pay and agreed with UCU that pay in FE is too low. How can they now think it is ok to refuse to talk to us about FE pay?

The joint FE trade unions have today written to the CEO of the AoC, David Hughes, to tell him that the AoC's position is unacceptable to the unions. The UCU press release can be found here

We have had enough, the AoC has given us no choice. UCU will submit the unions' claim for 5% or £1500 (whichever is greater) direct to every college in England. In colleges where there is not a positive response we will start balloting members in June for strike action. 

We know the reason you choose to teach and work in FE is your learners. You have always put their progress and needs first, so even if we win the ballot, we will not move to strike action until September - we will give colleges and the AoC the opportunity to come to their senses over the summer. 

The claim asks your college to take serious action to address the pay gap between FE staff and schools. Staff who love teaching and working in FE are being forced to move to jobs outside of the sector because they can't afford to stay. This is a disgrace to FE and a threat to its future. 

We will also ask your college to tell the AoC to stop mucking around and start leading the sector with credibility in its dealings with the unions. UCU and the other unions are strongly committed to meaningful national negotiations but at the moment they are not meaningful and we are being forced to go direct to your college for better pay.

While the current funding climate creates challenges for many colleges we want to see genuine engagement with the union's claim rather than the usual excuses from every institution.

UCU is fully committed to this strategy and we need the help and support of every member to make it work. Your union can only take action to stand up for you if at least 50% of our members vote in the forthcoming ballot at your workplace. If you are unhappy about pay in FE and support the action that UCU wants to take please vote and encourage everyone else to vote too when the ballot opens.

Our FE FIGHTS BACK campaign needs your support. If you are unhappy with pay in FE then please help us make it clear to your employers that enough is enough.

Thank you for your support.

Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary