Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Guns Fall Silent on the Pay Dispute Front?

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Guns Fall Silent on the Pay Dispute Front?

Article excerpt

A bitter battle over pay between colleges and unions has been raging for months - but now, at last, the prospect of an end to the conflict is in sight

Could peace for our time be about to break out in the FE sector? After months dominated by an increasingly bad-tempered dispute between the Association of Colleges (AoC) on one side and the University and College Union (UCU) on the other, the prospect has not come before time.

Let's recap. The row broke out towards the back end of last year when, after the unions representing college staff asked for a £1 per hour pay rise for all college employees, the AoC - which negotiates on behalf of colleges - refused to offer any increase for 2015-16.

The unions were fuming, claiming that college staff had suffered a real-terms pay cut of 17.1 per cent over the past five years. After 74 per cent of UCU members who took part in a ballot voted to take action, a one-day strike was held last November. In February, they were joined by Unison, representing support staff, with 66 per cent of members who voted backing one day of strike action.

The rhetoric was certainly spiky on both sides. UCU general secretary Sally Hunt described the pay freeze as "an insult to the commitment and enthusiasm of staff", while Marc Whitworth, the AoC's director of employment policy and services, said strikes were "very disruptive for colleges and, more importantly, for students". …

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