Further Education Lecturers: Pay Parity

Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 19 March 2024.

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Photo of Sinéad McLaughlin Sinéad McLaughlin Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:30, 19 March 2024

T1. Ms McLaughlin asked the Minister for the Economy whether he agrees with the principle of pay parity between further education lecturers and school teaching staff, given that he will be keenly aware of the challenges facing further education lecturers and their ask for that pay parity. (AQT 121/22-27)

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

I had an opportunity to meet the trade unions in the first week that I was in office. I told them that I shared their ambition to get further education lecturers on a trajectory where their pay is linked to teachers' pay. What we are trying to do with the amount of money available is get a settlement for this year to try to give people some support and agree together to set the trajectory of aligning their pay with teachers' pay for future years. That is my clear objective. I know that they are considering that offer. I hope that they take it up. Nonetheless, regardless of what happens this year, I have made my objective for further years very clear to the unions that represent the further education lecturers.

Photo of Sinéad McLaughlin Sinéad McLaughlin Social Democratic and Labour Party

Minister, I am pleased to hear that that is the direction of travel. However, you will appreciate that lecturers are absolutely livid at the minute about the differentiation in pay between teaching staff and those in colleges. They are teaching people on the higher level apprenticeship programme who are being paid more than them. Is there anything that you can do now to step in and support that sector as it struggles to get pay parity?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

I fully understand their frustration with how things have developed over the years. I have seen people from my local college on picket lines over the years. Their demand is legitimate. What we are trying to do is get, with the envelope that is available to us, an award made to them that will improve circumstances for this year and then work closely with them to get them on the right trajectory for future years. That is all that is affordable to us this year. We got an uplift in public pay. That was defined by the British Government — the Finance Minister has stretched it as far as she can — and it gives us a set amount with which to play.

I fully understand. The argument that they have made for where they should be is very supportable. I share that view and want to get them to that place. I would like to get a settlement this year and then continue to work in that direction.