UNISON is the leading union for support staff in further education colleges, and the only recognised union in sixth forms.
Nationally and locally we campaign on improving pay, including introducing the living wage for the lowest paid college workers, and tackling the gender pay gap.
How do pay negotiations work?
In England, pay for staff in further education is negotiated between the FE unions and the Association of Colleges (AoC) in the national joint forum (NJF). UNISON is represented on the NJF by staff working in colleges.
The result of the national negotiations is a pay recommendation which individual colleges use as a benchmark to set their own pay rates. UNISON firmly believes that national bargaining should result in a pay offer that colleges are obliged to implement.
Negotiations for the 2021/22 academic year will take place on the 13 December 2021. The joint unions have called for:
- A significant increase in pay that moves to restore the 35% loss in real pay for all FE staff since 2009.
- For the living wage, calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, to be the minimum wage in the sector, with all further education colleges in England becoming accredited living wage employers with the Foundation.
- A review of the 2009 National Agreement on Regulating Working Hours in Further Education Colleges with a view to establishing a National Workload Agreement for all FE Staff. The agreement to take into account the impact on workload of changes in working practices since 2009 and those related to Covid-19.
This claim is backdated to 1 August 2021 in line with the normal anniversary date.
- The unions call upon the AoC to seek a commitment from its members to be bound by the outcome of the 2021/22 NJF talks.
In Wales, the joint trade unions negotiate with ColegauCymru, the employers. On 8 July 2021 the joint trade unions submitted a pay claim for the year 2021/22 calling for:
- A significant increase in pay to reflect the efforts of the last year and the below inflation raises for the past decade or more;
- Support staff holiday entitlement of 37 days;
- Focused work towards an all-Wales pay scale for support staff, with no detriment when staff move onto it.
Scotland has an effective national bargaining mechanism. Support staff pay is negotiated separately from teachers’ pay and all pay offers made have to be implemented in individual colleges. On the 3 August the pay claim was submitted calling for:
- a £2000 consolidated flat rate payment for all support staff
- negotiations on a range of improvements to terms and conditions, including a strategy towards implementing a four-day week
- additional leave including 2 flexible days to support staff mental health and 2 additional career development days
In Northern Ireland the employers’ representative, Colleges Northern Ireland, was disbanded in June 2018.
Sixth form college pay
Staff in sixth form colleges have been under considerable stress during the pandemic and have made extraordinary efforts to keep colleges open to students. This comes after a decade of pay restraint that has seen pay for support staff in colleges fail to keep pace with changes in the cost of living. Staff now should be rewarded for these efforts and UNISON has submitted a pay claim for a substantial increase in pay this year.
Term time working and holiday pay
UNISON secured a victory in a Court of Appeal case in summer 2019 which ruled that all employees are entitled to statutory minimum of 28 days paid annual leave even if they do not work for part of the year or work irregular hours. The judgment also confirmed that this should be paid at the rate of a week’s pay (and if this is irregular, then the average over the previous 12 weeks). If you’re unsure about how your college has calculated your holiday pay, your UNISON rep can help.