Northern Ireland college lecturers could take legal action over pay rise delay
A lecturer from Co Antrim has accused further education colleges in Northern Ireland of dragging their heels over pay increases.
Lecturers in six FE colleges are still waiting on an annual pay increment of around £3,500 they were owed in September last year.
Corresponding pay rises have already been awarded to staff in the school and higher education sector.
The lecturer in beauty told the Belfast Telegraph: "We feel at a loss and frustrated because we're trying to educate but just not getting the pay rises.
"It's in our contract to get them but every year we're being asked to do more and more duties.
"It happens every year, last year it was January. This year it might be June, so what's going on with this and why isn't anybody being held accountable?
"It's about £3,500 each year and there are people taking a pay cut to take this job on the strength of that promise, so it is a lot of money."
Colleges here are required to submit a business case to the Department of Education, which is then passed to the Department for the Economy for approval. Business cases are usually submitted by June to get the pay through in time.
Colleges Northern Ireland said the delay was caused by the Department for the Economy not releasing its guidance until December 2017.
This has been rejected by the University & College Union, which represents FE lecturers, which called it "unacceptable" and noted this didn't stop school employers securing staff pay increases.
"The excuse they'll often use is that they're waiting on guidance from the department, which has been slower and slower every year," the union said. "But the guidance in December was only a repetition of what we'd see in previous years.
"That isn't a reasonable argument. If school employers can submit it in time and get the approval from the department there's no reason the FE employers can't do the same.
"We've been campaigning about this for years because we don't think government should have that level of involvement in pay.
"Our negotiations should be straight with the employer and shouldn't be dependent on controls, but affordability."
It advised that if members were kept waiting they should submit grievances to their employer, if necessary this would allow them to escalate the matter to an industrial tribunal for unlawful deduction of wages, or the County Court for breach of contract. "If they come to us we'll support them through that process," it added.
Colleges Northern Ireland said last week the payments were "imminent" and the business case had recently been submitted to the Department for Education.
It is understood that no definite date has been set for the payment but an update is expected within weeks.
The Department for the Economy said FE Colleges were responsible for seeking approval to implement pay increases in line with the guidance.