Taking the organising lead in Further Education

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2023 National Local Government Service Group Conference
17 February 2023

National pay negotiations with The Association of Colleges (AoC) continue to fall considerably short of the mark. With 1% and 2% pay ‘recommendations’ over the past few years, we are failing to deliver the pay awards our members need. As a consequence more and more branches are tagging on to the tailcoats of UCU and NEU local pay claims, departing from the AoC recommendation. With restricted facility time and limited branch resources, branches often allow to UCU/ NEU to lead on local negotiations. The problem being that UCU and NEU are not interested in low-paid member subs and are there to negotiate for academic lecturers not our support staff.

Support staff play an important role in the education of pupils yet many are facing a period of uncertainty and low pay as the cost of living crisis takes hold. The UNISON Further Education ‘Keep In Touch’ survey consistently highlights pay, terms and conditions as the number one concern for our members.

UNISON are the largest trade union in the public sector, in all other areas of local government its UNISON who take the lead and others follow. Why are we allowing UCU and NEU take the lead on pay in further education?

A comprehensive organising strategy is required that brings UNISON national and regions together on local pay claims and disputes in Further Education. UNISON must take the lead on this and coordinate their efforts in to a local response that delivers tangible results for our members. Conference believes that this fragmentation between national and region on local pay claims in further education is counter-productive. With more branches pursuing local pay claims in further education the allocation of UNISON’s time and resources on supporting the national negotiations creates an imbalance. We must put an equal amount of time and effort in to both. Conference notes where AoC recommendations are followed in Further Education we must continue to support this, but where employers have departed we must take advantage and campaign hard for better.

Conference notes this situation presents a number of challenges, but also ample recruitment and organising opportunities. In seeking to strengthen our ability to organise in further education, conference calls on the local government service group to:

1)Develop a coordinated overarching response to local pay claims and negotiations;

2)Develop a campaign plan with regions that equals the effort invested in national negotiations;

3)Establish a new and vibrant organising plan for further education that can be delivered across the regions and appeals to our membership;

4)Invest more time and effort in to assisting regions and branches in identifying and supporting local campaigns and disputes;

5)Take a lead in local pay claims and campaigns.