Lecturers come to terms

30 Jul 98
Further education colleges look set to reach agreement with the largest lecturers' union on national pay and conditions after five years of failed negotiations.

31 July 1998

The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe) is to ballot its members on a national framework agreement for lecturers' work arrangements, proposed by employers' body the Association of Colleges (AoC).

The agreement includes provisions for a 37-hour working week, 50 days holiday, entitlement to staff development, procedures for redundancy consultation and union recognition. The employers and unions would also establish joint working parties aimed at reaching agreement on pay structures, part-time workers, the use of agency staff and a staff handbook on personnel procedures.

But the union was disappointed with the proposed limits for staff teaching hours of between 800 and 880 annually and 22 to 27 hours per week. It said these were 'excessive'.

A pay offer of 2.7% will also be put to union members. The lecturers' body had not put a figure on the settlement it was seeking – it had called only for a 'substantial increase'.

It also wants an award which would compensate lecturers for receiving below-inflation 'silver book' settlements since 1993. But the current position is in some respects an improvement on previous years.

During the past two years there has been no nationally agreed pay settlement between the union and employers – the AoC recommended a figure to its members' colleges, which they were not obliged to implement.

A spokeswoman for the union said: 'Naturally we were hoping for a better offer. When the Comprehensive Spending Review was announced we said that some of the money must be directed to getting professional pay levels and proper conditions of service for lecturers.'

The pay offer comes days after the announcement of an extra £255m for colleges next year, following the spending review.

But the proposal will not automatically lead to the phasing out of the 'silver book' agreements, which date back to the period when colleges were run by Local Education Authorities. Between 5% and 10% of Natfhe members are still governed by these conditions.

However, it is likely that most of these members will opt for the employers' latest proposals because they have not had a pay rise since 1993, when colleges were incorporated as independent organisations.

In one respect the proposed minimum agreement marks a breakthrough since Natfhe had made staff conditions a cornerstone of its claim.

But the union remains disappointed with the deal, saying it was 'the best that could be achieved through negotiations'. General secretary Paul Mackney said: 'Our members have always said they wanted to get back to national conditions. Whilst we are not thrilled about what's on the table, it does represent a basic agreement on minimum standards for lecturers on which we can begin to build.

'We couldn't have gone this far if there wasn't a new climate and a genuine desire for progress on both sides. We will put the case to the members and they will have to make the final decision.'

Branch meetings will be held to discuss the proposals in September with ballots taking place. A result is expected by the end of October.


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