Further education lecturers may go ahead with a two-day strike after union leaders rejected an improved pay offer on a par with school teachers' awards, writes Tony Tysome.
At a meeting of the National Joint Forum of employers and unions on Tuesday, the Association of Colleges offered to increase pay for lecturers and support staff by 3.7 per cent or a flat rate of £400, whichever was the highest.
The rise, increased from 3 per cent in an effort to meet union leaders' demands for an offer to bring lecturers' pay up to school teacher levels, was accepted by all unions except Natfhe.
Paul Mackney, Natfhe's general secretary, explained: "We appreciate that the AoC has upped its offer to what the school teachers got this year, but we are very disappointed that they have not felt able to include a catch-up element.
"If the problem is a lack of money, then we are prepared to go with them to meet the new ministers and point out the continuing 10 per cent gap between the pay of further education lecturers and school teachers."
He said that unless the offer could be increased before autumn, Natfhe might go ahead with plans for a two-day strike in October, timed to coincide with the Labour Party conference.
The union will recommend to its further education committee that the revised offer should be rejected. It is planning to stage a lobby of Parliament on Tuesday to support its claim for an immediate £3,000 flat-rate increase.
The AoC, which met the new lifelong learning and higher education minister, Margaret Hodge, this week, said a joint lobby with Natfhe would be out of the question if the union decided to go ahead with strike action.
Ivor Jones, the employers' secretary for the National Joint Forum, said:
"We have moved a long way to get to this offer. We are disappointed that even as far as we have moved we have still not been able to get an agreement from Natfhe."
- Education and skills secretary Estelle Morris has announced £84 million for further education colleges to help them develop information technology infrastructure and increase uptake of online learning. She said the government aims to improve the ratio of PCs to students to one-to-five by next year.