The Association of Colleges has withdrawn its offer of support for a pay increase after talks with unions failed to reach a conclusion.
The association did have the recommendation of a 0.5 per cent increase on the table when it met officials from the University and College Union (UCU), which is involved in negotiations with the Association of Managers in Education, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, GMB, Unison and Unite.
The offer also included a £150 increase for those earning less than £15,000. The association negotiates on behalf of its members and makes recommendations on pay which member colleges consider but, as autonomous institutions, are not legally bound to follow.
The priority for our members is to continue to serve the needs of students and their local communities and, to achieve this, it is imperative that jobs are preserved
But talks ended in stalemate on Thursday, May 16, resulting in the association withdrawing its offer, which had been unanimously rejected by unions who wanted a 5 per cent rise.
It has refused to return to the table until the unions consider local discussions on conditions and pay.
The association’s director of employment policy and services, Emma Mason, said: “We removed the 0.5 per cent / £150 recommendation from the table in its entirety following the unions’ disappointing response to our proposals on the need for positive engagement in local discussions regarding the need for colleges to be responsive and proactive in the management of an ever-changing environment.
“The negotiations can proceed in June only if there is a willingness from the unions to engage meaningfully in these discussions.
“The 5 per cent pay claim from the unions would come with an approximate price tag of £200m which is unrealistic as the UK economy teeters on the brink of a triple dip recession.
“This, in addition to year-on-year cuts to government funding for colleges, is unaffordable for our members.
“The priority for our members is to continue to serve the needs of students and their local communities and, to achieve this, it is imperative that jobs are preserved.
“The employers have made it clear that any national recommendation on pay must recognise the very tight financial constraints within which our members are operating and support college strategies for organisational development and sustainability for the future.”
A statement from the UCU said local discussions would “give the employers more power to try and impose worse pay and conditions and move towards performance-related pay”.
Barry Lovejoy, UCU head of FE, said: “The employer’s action is unprecedented and places the whole national bargaining framework for colleges in jeopardy.
“The association now seems to want to throw pay as well as conditions back to local employers. By withdrawing this offer, they are risking a dispute that could be widespread and cause long-term disruption to colleges.
“For the sake of the sector, rather than taking their ball home, we urge employers to engage meaningfully in negotiation.”
Unison’s head of colleges, Christine Lewis, said: “It is sad that college employers are prepared to see the living standards of their staff fall even further and the Living Wage abandoned, over a statement that asks national negotiators to endorse local detriment for their members.
“We can only hope that colleges urge their negotiators back to the table.”