FE crisis blamed on cash delays

November 8, 2002

Lecturers' union leaders accused the government of deepening the financial crisis in further education this week by failing to release its funding plans in time to avert a one-day strike.

About 40 colleges were shut and classes in more than 200 were disrupted or cancelled because of the action called on Tuesday by lecturers' unions Natfhe and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, and support and administrative staff union Unison.

Natfhe leaders said the significant financial and educational impact of the strike could have been avoided if the government had brought forward its announcement on further education funding, expected to be made on November 19 at the Association of Colleges annual conference.

They said employers could also have reopened negotiations on the 2.3 per cent pay offer in the light of behind-the-scenes briefings with government officials or ministers' promises of "significant additional resources", such as a 1 per cent real-terms boost to core funding.

Barry Lovejoy, Natfhe's head of colleges, said unions had called off the strike in Wales when the Welsh Assembly announced an extra £9 million for further education pay. He said: "If it can be done in Wales, it can be done in England. We are urging the government and the AoC to follow the Wales lead.

"The government has already decided its funding plans for the sector. It is unfortunate that it did not see fit to bring that information forward so this strike could have been avoided."

Natfhe said it was planning another one-day strike in the first week of December and would invite Unison to join the action if employers did not improve their pay offer after the government's funding announcement.

The AoC failed to pull off a legal challenge to the strike. A court ruled against its claim that Unison had failed to comply with industrial relations law by not correctly identifying which of its members would be on strike.

The AoC said it would take the matter to the Court of Appeal.

Measures had been put in place to minimise disruption to students, the association said.

Ivor Jones, AoC director of employment policy, said: "The commitment of the AoC to college staff remains steadfast on the issue of pay - we want to secure equality of pay with schools and other training providers."

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