Comment: Pay cuts have blighted further education

No education worker wants to strike but recommendations for a pay freeze were insulting


Analysis of adult education funding by the House of Commons library was released yesterday, warning that a third of further education (FE) colleges could be under threat from the government’s spending plans.

The research, commissioned by the Labour Party, modeled the effect of a 25 per cent budget cut for colleges and states that FE colleges are set to would lose £1.173bn, which they estimate could mean the closure of 136 colleges.  

Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell is right to say that the government is ‘putting post-16 education on a cliff edge, harming opportunities for the next generation and holding our young people and our country back’.

The University and College Union (UCU) have consistently raised the issue of cuts to FE budgets. There is a real danger that the magnitude of these cuts could spell the end for some courses, and would shut the door on many learners who use adult education as a springboard for improving their skills.

The current cuts to adult education budgets have been a devastating blow to colleges and will change the face of further education in many parts of the country.

Funding for adult skills has already fallen 35 per cent since 2009. Colleges need stable investment to continue to help people of all backgrounds fulfil their potential.

Around 20,000 lecturers at over 200 further education colleges across the country took strike action yesterday in a row over pay.

Staff are angry that the employers’ representatives, the Association of Colleges, recommended a pay freeze, despite our members suffering a real-terms pay cut of 17.1 per cent in the last five years.

Three-quarters (7 per cent) of University and College Union (UCU) members who voted back strike action after the employers rejected the joint trade unions’ pay claim of £1 an hour extra for staff.

No education worker wants to strike but after years of pay cuts and attacks on their jobs, terms and conditions, UCU members are sick of the employers’ refusal to deal with the real-terms pay cuts that have blighted the sector.

For the Association of Colleges to recommend that all of their members freeze staff pay this year was a real insult.

Members who voted gave a clear mandate for strike action on pay and this is why our members were out yesterday. We hope the employers will now come back to the table to resolve the situation for those that work and study in this vital sector.

Sally Hunt is the general secretary of the University and College Union

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