Colleges Northern Ireland recently released an independent report recognising the potential for improved industrial relations across the further education (FE) sector in Northern Ireland.
The report was led by Sir Robert Salisbury, who recommended developing a modern industrial relations framework which is fit for purpose, flexible and supportive of the needs of college employers, learners, staff and business and industry.
Further education colleges play a significant role in the economy here and are the main provider of vocational and technical education and training to more than 90,000 learners, working with more than 10,000 businesses.
The FE sector is a key driver for economic development and growth and contributes to the rebalancing and rebuilding of the economy.
The colleges drive an economically relevant curriculum, focusing on priority skills, ensuring that learners are both employable and skilled to the level that employers will require.
College staff play an important role in ensuring that there is a progressive and vibrant FE sector. This report provides a strong foundation for developing a modern, employer-led employee relations framework, which has the support of staff, employers, trade unions and Government.
The report details 17 recommendations for modernisation, which have been accepted in full by the colleges. These include replacing the three existing negotiating committees with a solutions-focused joint negotiating committee, exploring the merits of developing a common job evaluation scheme and creating a culture of engagement between management and staff.
The recommendations provide a positive opportunity for future industrial relations, working in partnership with trade unions, staff and other stakeholders in developing an employer-led employee relations framework.
We look forward to working with stakeholders in a new task force, which is crucial in implementing the recommendations in a transparent manner to deliver this modernised industrial relations framework.