Further education lecturers' union leaders are threatening to call for renewed strike action after employers failed to improve their pay offer last week, writes Tony Tysome.
Pay talks ended in a stalemate: employers refused to table a higher offer than 2.3 per cent until unions agreed to call off their dispute, while union leaders said they would remain in dispute until employers increased their offer.
Union leaders said they were disappointed that employers had not come forward with a pay award that would bring FE lecturers' salaries up to the level of schoolteachers, since colleges had secured what employers said was the sector's "best settlement in living memory" in this year's spending review.
Three weeks ago, education secretary Charles Clarke announced that the sector would receive a £1.2 billion funding boost over the next three years, giving colleges an estimated average of £700 more per student.
Paul Mackney, general secretary for lecturers' union Natfhe, said there would be a call for industrial action unless employers improved their offer at the next pay negotiation meeting on January 13.
Chris Wilson, chair of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' FE committee, said: "ATL will be monitoring closely colleges that remain on 2.3 per cent and will be strongly supporting industrial action in those colleges.
"In the run-up to Christmas, we will identify the 'Scrooge' colleges and make it clear that Dickensian pay will not be accepted."
Ivor Jones, director of employment policy for the Association of Colleges, said he was confident that a settlement could be found.
But he added: "We refuse to make an offer until we get an agreement from all the unions to call off the dispute so that we can seek a settlement. We will then be in a position to see how we can use the spending-review money to modernise pay."