'Breach of faith': UCU threatens college pay strikes

Offering a bigger pay rise would be 'reckless given the financial stress colleges find themselves facing', says AoC

Stephen Exley

'Breach of faith': UCU threatens college pay strikes

Colleges could face strike action in the new year after the University and College Union (UCU) accused employers of a “breach of faith” over pay. 

The union met with the Association of Colleges (AoC), which represents FE colleges in pay negotiations, today. It described a 1 per cent pay offer tabled by the AoC on behalf of its members as “derisory”.

The government announced an extra £400 million of funding for colleges in August and UCU said it was time for colleges to prioritise staff. The union said the 1 per cent offer would only widen the pay gap – currently £7,000 a year – between school and college teachers after school teachers were awarded a 3.5 per cent rise, and said the AoC’s position was “simply inexcusable”.

Colleges make their own individual decisions as to whether to follow pay recommendations made by the AoC.

Background: Bradford College staff to hold three-day strike

More news: Nottingham College staff to strike over pay

Quick read: Strike at Bradford College suspended

Threat of college strikes

UCU head of further education Andrew Harden said: “Colleges have repeatedly used a lack of government funding as an excuse to hold down staff pay, whilst acknowledging they deserve more. To offer 1 per cent after joint campaigning and the recent funding announcement is a breach of faith that will rightly anger staff and leaves us with no option but to consult over strike action. It sends a clear signal to staff that they are not being prioritised, which threatens key relationships at precisely the time when the sector needs to work together.”

AoC chief executive David Hughes said: “We agree that college staff deserve better and will continue to campaign with trade unions, students and stakeholders to push the government for additional investment so that they can be properly rewarded.”

He added that the AoC had calculated that “a little less than half” of the £400 million will find its way to colleges, adding: “We expect colleges to have funding allocations for 2020-21 by the end of March 2020. As soon as that happens, we have promised to accelerate a pay recommendation for the following academic year. To do so any sooner would be reckless, given the financial stress colleges find themselves facing.”

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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