Latest pay offer for college staff is ‘simply not enough’

UNISON’s FE committee will recommend that members reject the offer, when colleges reopen in September

Further education college windows with banners

UNISON’s national further education committee is to recommend that members reject the latest pay offer from the employers’ organisation, which they feel is “simply not enough” to address the cost of living crisis and the problems caused by over a decade of stagnant pay growth.

Members will be consulted in September, when colleges reopen.

The pay negotiations for 2022/23 with the Association of Colleges (AoC) concluded last week. There had been some movement from the offer made in May, with employers now recommending 2.5% across the board, a further £500 unconsolidated in line with local affordability and £750 unconsolidated for those earning under £25,000.

There were also improvements to the claim for all colleges to become Living Wage Foundation accredited employers, with the AoC recommending that all colleges pay the real living wage as a minimum or publish their plans to do so.

However, the offer continues to fall far short of the claim the FE unions jointly submitted in March, for a pay rise of 10% on all points, with a minimum uplift of £2,000.

The FE committee is also concerned that the offer is unconsolidated, and that many low-paid workers will be no better off since the ‘bonus’ will be clawed back through the Universal Credit taper.

Ruth Smith, UNISON’s senior national officer for education and children’s services, commented: “The rise in the cost of living this year has been extreme, with inflation at a 30-year high. This is deeply challenging for our members in further education colleges, who are having to make decisions between eating and paying the rent.

“The rise in energy and fuel prices has led to members struggling to afford to travel to work, and trying to manage without heat, light and fuel in their homes. And some staff have to take second jobs to be able to pay their bills.”

She added: “Our members have suffered sub-inflationary pay rises for many years now, and the voluntary nature of national pay bargaining means that even when an increase is agreed, not all colleges pay it to staff.

“Enough is enough. We have come to a point where members really can’t manage on what they are being paid. It is time for the colleges and the government to realise that staff need to be paid enough to be able to live, without hardship and without poverty.”