Further Education: resounding rejection of 0% offer

UNISON further education (FE) members have angrily rejected The Association of Colleges’ (AoC) 2015 recommendation to its members not to pay a cost of living rise or move to the current Living Wage. In workplace consultation, 95 per cent of those voting rejected the offer, with twice as many colleges participating as last year. This is the first rejection of a pay offer since 2002.

UNISON West Sussex members affected work at Northbrook College, Central Sussex College and Chichester College.

UNISON believes that a number of alternatives should have been considered. Was the offer inevitable, given funding cuts? NO, there are always options and alternatives. The AoC could have:

  • met our claim, knowing that colleges which can’t pay, won’t pay;
  • offered a lower flat-rate than £1 an hour;
  • given a pay-rise to those on spot salaries, without increments;
  • moved the bottom of the scale to the 2014 Living Wage;
  • awarded a non-consolidated lump-sum;
  • recommended a range of non-pay reward;
  • made NO recommendation rather than sanction a pay freeze.

AoC could have proposed a menu of options including combinations of the above to be negotiated locally, with national leadership, on the basis of affordability and local circumstances.

Support staff have been facing redundancy. Any job losses intensify the volume of work for those remaining. There have been attacks on conditions of service, like sick pay following AoC’s unilateral withdrawal of the national scheme. There is chronic low and unequal pay in FE. There is uncertainty in a sector riven by underfunding and political meddling. Colleges and learners need a motivated workforce to face instability in the fight to defend FE.

UNISON has written to AoC and its FE college members asking for a pay offer and the Living Wage. Those who respond prior to 6 November will avoid inclusion in a national ballot for industrial action and other elements of UNISON’s dispute strategy.