Pay talks start today for English further education workers

Unions meet Association of Colleges for discussions over claim for ‘inflation plus 3%’ pay claim from September

Pay talks get under way today for further education workers in England, with unions calling for a pay rise of 3% above inflation – as measured by the retail price index – or £900 a year, whichever is higher.

The joint unions’ claim for the 2017-18 academic year also calls for a minimum wage equal to the living wage, as calculated by the Living Wage Foundation – currently £8.45 an hour, or £9.75 in London.

The talks are with the Association of Colleges, which will make a recommendation on pay to FE colleges across England, who pay staff as individual employers.

UNISON national officer Ruth Levin says that seven years of austerity and pay caps have added to the pressures of pay falling behind rising prices for the past decade, meaning “too many of our members have not had a pay rise for many years.

“They are telling us that in a number of cases they can’t afford to make ends meet on their wage.

“Many struggle to pay basic household bills … and some can’t afford to pay for travel to work by the end of the month.”

She called on the employers’ association “to listen to the staff at the front line of further education and to work with colleges across England to ensure that poverty pay is eliminated.”

The joint union pay claim was submitted in April.

UNISON and other further education unions in Scotland are due to meet employers tomorrow for talks on a claim for an across-the-board rise of £1,000 a year and a minimum rate of the living wage, which was submitted in February.

In Wales, a claim for 3.2% plus 1%, with a minimum of £800 a year, was also submitted in April.

In all three countries, UNISON says all colleges need to recognise that recruiting and retaining a dedicated and professional workforce requires proper rewards.