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Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 15:44 GMT
College lecturers vote to strike
ballot paper
The action involves about four fifths of England's colleges
A further education college lecturers' union is to call out some 26,600 members on strike on 16 November.

Natfhe said that, in a ballot over a 2.8% pay offer, 71% of respondents backed the proposed strike.

The turnout was 36%, with 6,820 votes for a strike and 2,740 against. The action affects 226 of the 283 colleges in England.

The union says lecturers' pay lags school teachers' by 10% on average and the offer would make things worse.

It has again complained that school sixth forms have 13% a year more funding than colleges for teaching similar courses.

'Angry'

A rally is being organised for the same day to coincide with an appearance by the Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, at the annual conference of the Association of Colleges, in Birmingham.

"The bitter disappointment of this year's offer compounded the existing anger of lecturers in 65% of England's colleges who have not yet received pay rises due last year," Natfhe said.

That was the cause of strikes in many colleges in May this year. College pay is negotiated nationally but implemented locally.

Natfhe's head of colleges, Barry Lovejoy, said: "The government tells us that further education is the 'engine of a successful, dynamic economy' - so why does it leave our colleges running on empty?

"Our members are angry and resentful that whilst more and more is expected of them, their pay is slipping further and further behind schoolteachers'.

"Given a choice between colleges and schools, it is not hard to see which new recruits would opt for.

"With 50% of the further education workforce due to retire within a decade, this is a disaster waiting to happen."

This will be as a consequence of colleges' experiencing financial difficulties due to the current funding regime,
Sue Dutton
Association of Colleges

At the Association of Colleges, deputy chief executive Sue Dutton said the planned strike was regrettable, but major disruption was not anticipated.

The other four main further education unions had accepted a national pay deal.

"In those locations where action will take place, colleges will of course endeavour to minimise disruption to their students.

"The Association of Colleges would argue that this will be as a consequence of colleges' experiencing financial difficulties due to the current funding regime," she added.

"Closing the funding gap between schools' sixth forms and colleges would benefit the average college by 600,000 each year, for instance."

So although colleges valued their staff and believed they should be properly rewarded, they continued to struggle to match the market rates set by schools and industry.

"If the college sector is to stand at the forefront of the new skills strategy they do need to be able to pay wages that will not only allow them to retain skilled staff but also to attract high calibre graduates and industrial experts."




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