Trade unions have submitted pay claims for further education workers in England and Wales, which would tackle the way their pay has fallen behind living costs over the past 10 years of austerity.
“We know that our members are working harder than ever to deliver high quality further education,” said UNISON national officer Ruth Levin. “That needs to be recognised and rewarded by employers.
“Urgent action is needed to address low morale and a growing staff retention problem.”
The unions point out that Britain leaving the EU will mean the country needs to invest in high quality further education alongside the new apprenticeship scheme.
Colleges should recognise that some of the extra funding promised to the sector must go to staff, they say.
Both claims were submitted in April and are for pay rounds due to come into effect from the start of the 2017-18 academic year in September.
- In England, UNISON and sister unions have submitted a claim for pay to rise by inflation as measured by the retail price index (RPI), plus 3%, or £900 a year, whichever is higher.
- In Wales, the claim is for a pay rise of 3.2% plus 1%, with a minimum of £800.
In both cases, the flat-rate element would apply to full-time annual salaries, with proportionate increases for part-time staff.
The English claim also calls for a minimum pay rate in colleges to match the living wage, calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, which is currently £8.45 an hour, or £9.75 in London.
Welsh colleges are already committed to paying the living wage to directly employed staff.
The English pay claim also calls for agreement on a number of related matters affecting members, including:
- workload and amount of professional development that staff receive each year;
- class sizes; the use of agency staff;
- national guidelines on non-lecturer staff who help deliver curriculums.
Negotiations in England are due to start on 17 May.
The annual pay rise for Scottish FE support staff was due from 1 April.
Meetings with the employers have taken place since a claim for a £1,000 pay rise across the board and a minimum rate of the living wage was submitted in February, but no offer has been received yet.
Scotland’s FE unions and employers are due to meet again on 18 May.