UCU set to ask college staff to reject biggest pay offer in five years

College staff across England will be urged to reject their biggest pay offer in five years when the University and College Union (UCU) puts the deal to members, FE Week can reveal.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) had put its “full and final offer” for 2014/15 to the UCU last month. The offer included removing the lowest current pay grade, while pay for staff on the lowest remaining grade would also increase by 2 per cent to £7.65-an-hour, with all other grades rising by 1 per cent.

The proposed deal was better than the 0.7 per cent rise offered in previous talks at the National Joint Forum (NJF), which includes Unison, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL),  Amie (ATL’s section for education leaders and managers), Unite and GMB. However, the UCU has been looking for a 3 per cent rise or £1,040, whichever is the greater.

The UCU, which met to go through the latest offer on June 27, told FE Week it would therefore recommend to its members that they reject the AoC proposal.

A UCU spokesperson said: “The FE committee (FEC) had previously determined to consult all FE England members on the offer with a recommendation to reject. Our FEC officers met last week, and are now working out a timetable for that consultation, which will begin in early September.

“Branches will be provided with a briefing note including an explanation of the consequences of rejecting the offer and the consequences of accepting the offer and should plan to call branch meetings within the first few weeks of September to discuss the offer, the FEC recommendation and briefing note.”

Marc Whitworth, acting director of employment policy and services for the AoC, said: “We welcome the constructive dialogue we have had with the unions this year in the NJF about the funding situation facing FE colleges and our collective concerns about the financial challenges the sector faces.

“Bearing in mind these significant financial pressures, AoC’s full and final offer with no conditions, is a fair balance between rewarding staff and maintaining the financial well-being of colleges where possible.

“The current lowest pay grade will be removed and those on the new grade will receive a 2 per cent uplift. This is equal to an additional £288.42 a-year increasing their hourly rate of pay to £7.65 an-hour equivalent to the current living wage. Those working in roles above this salary level will receive a 1 per cent consolidated increase.”

It comes after teachers at sixth form colleges across England walked out of work last week as part of a separate dispute over pay and conditions.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) who work in sixth form colleges were involved in industrial action on July 10.

Sixth Form Colleges’ Association director of HR services Graham Baird told FE Week that members had been operating “on a business as usual basis without too much disruption”.

The NUT wants the Department for Education (DfE) to shelve plans for a system of performance-related pay, and commit to increase salaries in line with inflation. They also want the government to reverse pension reforms.

A DfE spokesperson said: “The NUT has tried to cause as much disruption for children and their families as possible — but thanks to the dedication of many teachers and staff who turned up for work, just 21 per cent of schools were closed.”

The NUT has refused to rule out further strikes and is to survey members in September on the future of the campaign.