UCU announces two-day strike at Barnsley College
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are taking two days of strike action at an FE college in a row over new contracts.
Around 100 UCU members of staff at Barnsley College in South Yorkshire are expected to take to the picket lines from 7am on Wednesday and Thursday.
The union says changes to contracts, as part of a restructure in the summer, have led to pay cuts, a worsening of terms and conditions, new roles for teaching staff and performance-related pay for some A-level teachers.
The college wants new staff and those facing future restructures to take up the new contracts.
But the union claims that new and restructured staff could see their pay slashed by as much as £6,000 a year, as others face losing 10 days’ annual leave.
Staff walked out for one day last month and said they had little choice but to escalate their action after the college refused to budge on its plans to implement the new contracts.
UCU regional official Julie Kelley called the actions of the college an “unashamed effort” to try to get more out of staff for less, and predicted that it would lead to a “two-tier workforce.”
“Staff at Barnsley College are not prepared to sit by while the college tries to ruin their terms and conditions,” she said.
“Nobody wants to take strike action, but the college’s refusal to negotiate with us in good faith has left us with no alternative.”
Barnsley College said only 38 UCU members voted to strike. The college will be open and operating as normal over the two days.
Colin Booth, Barnsley College's principal, said he was “disappointed” that UCU had chosen to strike after six months of negotiations.
He claimed the new contract would bring “positive changes” to pay and conditions for many of Barnsley College’s staff, and said that no current staff member would be forced to sign it.
“I am pleased to say that a significant number of staff have asked to sign the new contract and we will continue to enable others to do so in the future,” he said.
“I am surprised that UCU has chosen to strike on the day of a college open evening. I expect around 100 staff to be on strike from a total of 800 employed by the college.
“Most of our staff will therefore be working together as usual to give prospective students, and their parents, the best possible experience to show them that our college is the most inspiring of the various options available to them.”
The strike will be the second time UCU members have walked out over changes to staff contracts at an FE college this year, following the long-running saga at Lambeth College in London.
The six-week strike at Lambeth during June and July was the longest in the union’s history, and UCU members there recently voted in favour of further industrial action.
And there could soon be industrial action at a second London college, with UCU members at the College of North West London currently balloting following a reorganisation designed to move 30 per cent of staff onto hourly paid contracts.
Striking staff 'determined to see college fail' claims principal – November 2014
UCU ballots for strike action at second London college – November 2014
Lambeth College row continues as UCU rejects new offer – October 2014