Conference calls for national pay bargaining in FE

Low pay in Further Education (FE) was high on the agenda at UNISON’s local government conference, with delegates hearing that pay in the sector had fallen by around 35% since 2010, thanks to a lack of centralised pay bargaining.

This has led to a recruitment crisis, with three quarters of England’s 228 colleges reporting difficulties in filling vacancies.

But delegates heard about the recent success of the Wirral branch of UNISON in securing a commitment from Wirral Metropolitan College to be a Real Living Wage Employer.

To applause from the audience, Cathy Wilde from the Wirral branch explained that as a result of UNISON’s campaign, the majority of the college’s members received pay rises of between 15% and 20%, and membership increased by 50%.

She told conference that this had been achieved by breaking away from the Association of Colleges (AoC), which gave the branch the freedom to campaign.

In the FE sector, pay rises are recommended by the AoC, but colleges are not obliged to accept these recommendations. This system prevents coordinated action on pay, with one speaker describing this system as “broken and unfit”.

Every year, hundreds of meetings on pay take place in FE colleges all across the country, which is expensive and time-consuming. With national pay bargaining, only one experienced and trained team would be needed.

Conference also heard about the intolerable stress levels that face support workers in colleges, with one speaker describing how, on a salary of only £18,000 a year, she had dealt with 72 safeguarding cases in a few months, and was twice threatened with being stabbed. As a result, she had to take time off work due to stress.

Delegates passed a composite motion on FE pay, which called on the service group executive to:

  • campaign for national pay bargaining in colleges;
  • develop campaigning materials that highlight funding gaps in FE;
  • and call for the Real Living Wage for all FE colleges.

The article Conference calls for national pay bargaining in FE first appeared on the UNISON National site.