College refuses staff pay rise

Newcastle College has been branded “Scrooge” after refusing staff a nationally recommended 0.7 per cent pay rise.

The University and College Union (UCU) likened the college to the tight-fisted Charles Dickens’ character and called it “mean-spirited” for telling staff they would not get the salary boost — suggested by the Association of Colleges (AoC) for those earning more than £15,000 per annum for the 2012/13 academic year.

The college said employees already received at or above the recommended rate, however, due to pay increases in previous years, and wages for the lowest paid workers had risen as part of the national Living Wage campaign.

“We are including last year’s pay rise, which was paid as a lump sum, into all staff wages. So we will still be paying more than the recommended pay rates for all staff,” said a college spokesperson.

“We think this is very reasonable at a time when the government is cutting budgets in further education by 25 per cent and is imposing pay freezes in other parts of the public sector and education. It will enable us to sensibly manage our budgets so we can maintain an excellent quality of services to the learners, who must always be our first priority.”

Jon Bryan, UCU regional support official, said: “The fact remains that 18 months ago, Newcastle College reduced the remuneration given to the main lecturing grade by one third (a cut of approximately £10k a year for some staff). They also spend far less than the vast majority of colleges on staff pay in proportion to the college’s income, continually reporting a figure of just over 50 per cent on staff costs, whereas the average in the sector is over 60 per cent.”

Mr Bryan also criticised the college for refusing to enter into negotiations.

“As the college has refused to implement a national recommendation on pay, the matter should be negotiated by the recognised trade unions. For some reason, it does not share that view — although it is standard practice across the sector and has been the case at Newcastle College for many years now,” said Jon Bryan, regional support official.”

Newcastle said it had corresponded with the union but was not obligated to enter into formal negotiations because UCU was not officially recognised at the college. Mr Bryan said his organisation would continue to challenge the decision in the New Year.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU, said: “What terrible timing that just days before Christmas Newcastle College refuses to give its hard-working lecturers a pay rise that, by any standards, is far from generous.

“From what we know, the college is not cash-strapped, so how mean-spirited to penalise staff at this time of year. It really does deserve to be branded the ‘Scrooge’ of further education this Christmas.”