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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
College staff reject 1.5% pay offer
computer room
Any action could see students' studies disrupted
A summer of disrupted lessons could beset college students in England and Wales as academic and support staff in further education reject their latest pay offer.

The six unions representing college lecturers, managers, support and manual staff have rejected a 1.5% pay rise from the Association of Colleges (AoC) as "insulting".

Our members will be livid at this derisory offer

Paul Mackney, Natfhe
The unions claimed the rise would mean the lowest paid support staff would only be 50p a week better off and part-time support workers would only gain 7p an hour.

The pay offer was "a slap in the face" for college staff and the four million students in the sector, unions said.

The AoC said dissension was premature and came at a time when pay talks had only just begun and when the sector was engaged in a joint campaign to persuade the government to put more money into further education.

Ballot for action

But the lecturers union, Natfhe, is now preparing to ballot its members over industrial action.

Natfhe said pay for further education lecturers was already as much as 12% below that of school teachers.

A lecturer on the bottom 14, 254 salary, the proposed 1.5% increase would add up to just 4.11 per week, according to the union.

"Our members will be livid at this derisory offer and we expect they will respond by voting with their feet," said general secretary Paul Mackney said.

"Natfhe will be balloting the majority of colleges in England and Wales for two days of strike action in May."

The rejection comes just six months after a six-month pay dispute last year, which ended when lecturers voted overwhelmingly to accept a 4% rise.

Ivor Jones, director of employment policy at the AoC, said the first meeting over pay this year had only just taken place - and further talks were scheduled for 20 May and 11 June.

"I think this it is premature as we are still in negotiations," he said.

'Funding is up'

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education spokeswoman said colleges were now better funded than ever before.

"Total funding per student is up 16% in real terms since 1997. And more money is going in through the teaching pay initiative budget - 310m over the period 2001-04," said the spokeswoman.

"Colleges are independent, incorporated institutions - and national pay negotiations are a matter between the employer organisation for colleges, the AoC and the unions.

"The negotiations are at a very early stage and the government encourages both parties to continue their discussions," she said.

See also:

15 Oct 01 | Education
College lecturers end pay dispute
12 Mar 99 | Education
Tighter reins for college managers
19 Jul 00 | Education
Performance pay for college lecturers
24 Nov 99 | Education
Colleges get funding boost
28 May 99 | Education
Lecturers miss out on pay deal
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