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College staff vote to go on strike

Thousands of students across England are set to be affected by industrial action over a long-running pay dispute

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Thousands of students across England are set to be affected by industrial action over a long-running pay dispute

Teaching staff in 16 colleges across the country have voted in favour of industrial action in a dispute over pay, the University and College Union (UCU) announced today.

The average turnout was 63 per cent and of those staff who voted, 92 per cent voted for strike action. Union members at the majority of colleges are now planning a two-day walkout.

Full details of action at each of the colleges will be confirmed in the coming days, according to the UCU.

The vote to strike comes in the wake of a 1 per cent pay offer from the Association of Colleges, which represents employers in the negotiations, in September.

UCU claimed the below-inflation offer failed to address the years of pay suppression which further education staff have endured.

Staff at all affected institutions are taking action over pay, but at some colleges the dispute also includes concerns about working conditions including holiday entitlement, workload and observation policies.

Anger among staff

The level of support for strikes reflects the depth of anger among staff who have seen their pay fail to keep up with the rising cost of living, according to the UCU.

Its general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “The overwhelming support for strike action at these colleges shows the depth of anger about continued attempts to hold down pay in further education. Strikes are always a last resort for staff, but years of derisory pay offers have failed to keep up with the rising cost of living and patience is wearing thin”.

She added: “We are ready to negotiate in order to resolve these disputes and minimise the disruption to students. It is now up to college leaders to come back to the table and address the concerns of staff as a matter of urgency”.

The colleges affected include:

  • City and Islington College
  • College of Haringey Enfield and North East London
  • City of Westminster College
  • College of North West London
  • Croydon College
  • Epping Forest College
  • Hackney Community College
  • Havering College
  • Lambeth College
  • Redbridge College
  • Richmond-upon-Thames College
  • Sandwell College
  • Sunderland College
  • Sussex Coast College Hastings
  • Tower Hamlets College
  • Westminster Kingsway College

Response

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “I appreciate that the decision to strike is never a decision taken lightly, but it is disappointing that this action is being taken so soon after we agreed to work together with unions to campaign on fair funding for colleges. I am very committed to that joint work to keep up the pressure on government. When we made the recommendation of 1% or a minimum of £250 we were clear that this was the maximum we believed was affordable by colleges, given the severe funding cuts which they have been subject to in recent years".

He added: "It is also important to put this action into perspective. Around 93% of UCU members in over 270 colleges were not balloted in this targeted action, meaning that there was and is no mandate for national action in what is a national negotiation. The strike action will have more impact on students in the 16 colleges than it will have on the Government which has starved colleges of the investment they need to support better pay”.

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