A TINY association for lecturers is taking on further education in a David and Goliath-style battle for paid holidays.
The Lecturer Employment Advice and Action Fellowship, which has a few dozen members spread over some 40 FE colleges, is pressing the Association of Colleges for up to four weeks' paid holiday a year for an estimated 15,000-20,000 lecturers still on Silver Book contracts.
The fellowship claims that colleges are in breach of the European Commission Working Time Directive and estimates that it could cost the sector close to Pounds 40 million to rectify the situation.
LEAF leaders say that lecturers still on the pre-incorporation Silver Book national conditions of service contracts, are being shortchanged to the tune of four weeks statutory holiday pay. Lecturers are paid for a 38 week year when they should be paid for 42 weeks, they say.
The fellowship argues that it makes no difference that lecturers are paid monthly salaries, and are therefore technically being paid while on holiday. This simply amounts to the division of 38 weeks' pay into 12 payments, when it should be the division of the 38 working weeks plus the four weeks' holiday entitlement.
General secretary David Evans has written to the AoC pointing out that the employers ought to comply with the directive as colleges are still, despite incorporation in 1993, "emanations of the state". Mr Evans said that LEAF is taking legal advice with a view to challenging the AoC in the courts or at industrial tribunal.
But the AoC has responded by pointing out that since incorporation colleges are effectively independent of the state and therefore not subject to the working time directive.
The association also says that, even if colleges were emanations of the state, Silver Book lecturers enjoy many more days off than their colleagues and are paid a year's salary for a year's work.
LEAF is also challenging employers and the Government under another EC directive relating to the transfer of the terms and conditions of employment which occurred at the time of incorporation.
The fellowship says that the UK breached the Acquired Rights Directive by downgrading terms and conditions of employment when transferring from local authority control to incorporated status.