Further education strikes averted as unions accept pay proposals

The
threat of strike action at more than 300 further education colleges has been
averted after trade unions accepted pay recommendations put forward by the
Association of Colleges (AoC).

Colleges
and trade unions now wish to work in partnership to secure a long-term pay deal
for the sector, with recommendations due by July 2003.

Ivor
Jones, AoC director of employment policy, said: "I am delighted we have
succeeded in negotiating improved recommendations with all of the trade unions
of the National Joint Forum – averting any further strike action and disruption
to students and their education.

"The
new recommendations lay the foundation for detailed negotiations on an
affordable long-term pay deal for the further education sector.

"AoC’s
priority now is to make a start on modernising pay arrangements to tackle the
staff recruitment and retention crisis facing colleges. We hope successful
negotiations to modernise pay will see, as a first step, minimum pay of £5 an
hour for low-paid staff, and a starting salary for qualified lecturers of
£18,217 – higher than comparable starting salaries in both schools and sixth
form colleges," Jones said.

"The
AoC has maintained its commitment to modernise pay for further education
college staff. Colleges will work with AoC to co-create and develop affordable
proposals for negotiation. The details of the full recommendations to modernise
pay are due to be published in July 2003, providing AoC has agreement from the
trade unions of the Joint National Forum. AoC hopes to be able to recommend
that colleges backdate the first step pay improvements to April 2003.

"Looking
forward, AoC aspires to settle industrial relations in the sector and
concentrate our efforts on workforce development, raising standards and staff
remuneration rather than conflict resolution," he added.

By Quentin Reade

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