Union warns AoC risks ‘becoming an irrelevant voice’ after another ‘insulting’ 1% pay offer

The Association of Colleges has been warned that it risks “becoming an irrelevant voice” in the FE sector after it offered staff an “insulting” one per cent pay rise again.

The University and College Union said the deal, which was presented to AoC members yesterday, was a “wholly inadequate” response to the pay crisis in FE which has left teaching staff being paid £7,000 less than school teachers.

Last year the AoC said it regretted only making a one per cent offer and has conceded that staff need a rise. But without additional funding from the government a larger pay rise appears to not be possible.

David Hughes, the association’s boss, said he is “deeply disappointed” that a better offer cannot be made but he “cannot recommend a completely unaffordable pay award”.

He added that his members need to “continue to focus our collective energies on pushing the government for better investment”.

The UCU said warm words were “not a substitute for fair pay” and warned this year’s repeated offer sent a “worrying signal to staff that they were not valued and that their employers were not prepared to fight their corner”. 

The union pointed out that Capital City College Group has agreed a 5 per cent pay deal for over 1,700 staff, despite a large deficit, and claimed that less than half of colleges followed the AoC’s previous pay recommendation. 

A walkout over pay by more than 700 UCU members caused disruption across six colleges last week – and even forced one to close for two days.

Further disruption is likely to occur in the New Year, as strike ballots opened at another 26 colleges, with a closing date of December 19.

“The offer will annoy staff who need their employers to be fighting their corner as the pay gap between them and school teachers widens further,” said UCU head of policy and campaigns Matt Waddup.

“It is not right that staff at one college can receive a five per cent increase while their colleagues down the road get nothing for doing the same work.

“The AoC cannot continue to believe that warm words are a substitute for fair pay and they risk becoming an irrelevance. This offer increases the likelihood of more waves of strikes after Christmas and puts the ball firmly in the court of colleges who are prepared to follow CCCG’s lead and actually do something to tackle the pay crisis in further education.”

An AoC email to members, seen by FE Week, said the association “firmly believes” that college staff should be awarded a 3.5 per cent pay increase to at least match the school teacher pay award.

“However, due to the continued chronic under investment in the sector this is currently not an option,” it added.

Mr Hughes said: “Every college leader wants to pay a fair salary to be able to recruit, reward and retain the best people.

“College staff have had to work harder than ever as the funding cuts have bitten but we cannot recommend a completely unaffordable pay award.”