Unions have demanded an inflation-busting 15 per cent pay increase for college staff next year.
The 2023/24 pay claim request put forward jointly by the National Joint Forum collective of five unions to the Association of Colleges has demanded a retail price index increase (13.4 per cent) plus 2 per cent on all pay points – 15.4 per cent in total – as well as calls for all colleges to pay the national living wage – currently £10.42 for those aged 23 and above.
The request is above the 10.4 per cent consumer price index or 13.8 per cent retail price index inflation rate reported last month and well above the 2.5 per cent offer the AoC put forward to colleges last year.
In addition, the unions call for “significant movement” towards “meaningful national agreements to address workload in colleges,” and sector-wide agreement on a new national bargaining framework for a new national contract for FE staff.
The unions also want a commission to be formed to address climate change, looking at sustainability, new skills, climate justice and a road map to the sector becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
The five unions making the demands, which would be for introduction from August, are the University and College Union (UCU), Unison, the National Education Union (NEU), GMB and Unite.
Their submission said: “In recent years staff in FE in England have seen their pay, working conditions and professionalism undermined. The annual cycle of NJF negotiations has not resulted in meaningful and tangible outcomes that benefit staff.
“This year the joint trade unions claim seeks change. We want the outcomes of these negotiations to result in a pay rise linked to inflation and meaningful and binding agreements leading to real action to address excessive workloads and a commission to start to tackle climate change.”
It pointed out that the rise in prices workers were facing was at a 40-year high, and said that sector pay had fallen behind inflation by more than 35 per cent since 2009/10.
In response to the government negotiations with unions over school teacher pay, the AoC said that “college unions, staff and college leaders all stand on the side lines looking in, with no mechanism to negotiate”.
The association added: “Pay in colleges is just as important, particularly now that colleges are part of the public sector. With college lecturers paid around £8,000 to £10,000 less than their counterparts in schools, a better pay award for schools will widen what is already an unacceptable gap.
“Poor pay is now holding back colleges from offering training and skills because they cannot recruit and retain people to teach.”
The AoC last year proposed 2.25 per cent initially, upping its offer to 2.5 per cent. But the UCU condemned it as “beyond insulting” as the cost-of-living crisis worsened, as it fell short of its 10 per cent pay demand.
At the time, AoC chief executive David Hughes said that “the money is simply not there”, describing it as “both inadequate compared with inflation but also on the cusp of what is affordable for most colleges”.
The first meeting for negotiations between the unions and AoC is due to be held on April 19.