Strike ballot for college staff

SUFFOLK College is one of nearly 300 colleges being balloted to see if lecturers should strike over pay.Lecturers' leader Paul Mackney is making an urgent appeal to the Education Secretary Estelle Morris, to release some of the £1.

By Judy Rimmer

SUFFOLK College is one of nearly 300 colleges being balloted to see if lecturers should strike over pay.

Lecturers' leader Paul Mackney is making an urgent appeal to the Education Secretary Estelle Morris, to release some of the £1.4 billion underspend from last year's education budget, to ease the crisis in cash-strapped colleges.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, Mr Mackney, NATFHE's general secretary warned of continued industrial unrest in colleges because of the government's failure to allocate enough funds to allow lecturers' pay to rise to that of schoolteachers, by 2004.

NATFHE, the largest lecturers' union, along with five other college unions has rejected as 'insulting' a 1.5 per cent pay offer from the employers' body, The Association of Colleges, made in April during pay negotiations.

Mr Mackney told the Education Secretary: "College lecturers (and other staff) earn around 12pc less than school teachers. We are under the impression that the Government shares our objective of bridging this pay gap by September 2004 and that a bid has been made under the Comprehensive Spending Review to achieve this.

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'NATFHE members are expecting in this year's pay offer significant progress towards parity with school teachers who were this year given a pay rise of 3.5pc and a shortening of the pay scales.

"We are currently balloting members on industrial action in response to the insulting pay offer. If the ballot results in a "yes" vote there will be a two-day stoppage across England and Wales colleges on May 28 and 29, provided no acceptable offer has been made at the next negotiating meeting on May 20."

Mr Mackney's appeal follows a lobby of Parliament on April 23, which was attended by over 450 further education college lobbyists.