Socialist Worker

Lesson won't wait for another year

Issue No. 1844

COLLEGE LECTURERS in the Natfhe union have accepted an offer recommended by their leadership to settle last year's pay claim. There was a large vote to accept in a postal ballot. Our claim, which was due in August 2002, was for parity with school teachers by 2004.

College lecturers are paid around 12 to 15 percent less than comparable school teachers. The settlement will give 3.5 percent backdated to August with a further 0.5 percent from April this year. There will also be some minor changes in pay scales that will benefit some lower paid lecturers.

There are also to be negotiations with the employers' organisation, the Association of Colleges (AoC), on progress towards parity with school teachers. However, these could easily run into the sand with employers demanding further hikes in productivity, just like with the firefighters.

The AoC will not even insist that all colleges must pay the full offer, which could lead to local disputes and delay any return to national conditions and pay rates.

Natfhe's leadership sold the deal to the national executive using the argument that 'the real fight will be next year'. That was a reference to the extra funding made available to further education colleges in education secretary Charles Clarke's speech at the end of last year. Despite the fantastic support for strike action in the campaign, Natfhe's leadership never seriously campaigned to build the most effective action. They rejected any moves to escalate or extend it, even when special conferences demanded it.

This is a serious lost opportunity for Natfhe because it is clear that money was available for a substantial catch-up pay settlement. The leadership's cynical claim that if we accept a poor offer now we can fight more strongly next year risks undermining any remaining confidence over pay that members may have in the current leadership.

Activists in Natfhe, particularly those in Natfhe Rank and File, will be working to build confidence in the colleges around anti-war campaigning and feed that back into the fight for decent pay and conditions.
Howard Miles

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Article information

Sat 29 Mar 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1844
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