OUR RECENT strike action has had an effect. At the conference of the Association of Colleges last Tuesday the education secretary, Charles Clarke, announced new government funding of £1.2 billion over a three-year period.
In response Paul Mackney, general secretary of the college lecturers' Natfhe union, was reportedly in euphoric mood. He suspended further planned strike action over pay in December pending negotiations. Both the employers and the union's leadership hailed the announcement as the most significant increase in funding for the further education sector for decades.
But college workers are aware that there are some very big clouds that come with this silver lining. The government wants to open up the sector to the market by giving extra funding to 'good' colleges and inflation-only increases to 'poor' ones. There was no mention in Clarke's speech about dealing with the chronic casualisation of teaching in further education.
Most significantly, the new funding is to be very closely tied to performance targets. This could undermine nationally agreed pay rates and conditions. The employers can no longer claim that they can't address pay because of lack of funding.
But the unions are going to have to fight over the restoration of national pay scales and conditions, casualisation, part-timers' rights, and full parity with school teachers.
THE UNION branch secretary for teachers at Manchester College of Arts and Technology, Geoff Brown, has been suspended pending disciplinary proceedings. The union branch is meeting this week to vote on balloting for strike action in the event of the college management taking any disciplinary action against Geoff.
Send messages of support and copies of protest faxes to Natfhe Regional Office - fax 0161 772 7013.