Boycott Liverpool

Boycott Leicester

Covid-19 information and updates

A new approach to collective bargaining in English further education  sector

UCU is now approaching collective bargaining in further education in England in a new way. Read why the new approach is necessary, what it offers and how you can get involved: National Plus in FE

FE England: 2017-18 pay round

Information on the 2017-18 national pay round for English colleges.

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

The headlines of the joint claim was 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]

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 .

The 2017-18 national pay claim aimed 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.

1% offered nationally

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.

Industrial action

UCU's consultative ballot led to a number of branches holding a full industrial action ballot. The result of the ballot meant a number of colleges were 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)

UCU members in 14 of these 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.

This was followed by a further waves of action throughout March, April and May:

Sector-leading pay deal agreed

This action has ultimately lead to a number of local agreements being reached: