The University and College Union has ruled out further national strikes in its ongoing dispute over lecturers' pay for "tactical reasons”.
The union had successfully balloted for industrial action over the 2014/15 pay offer from the Association of Colleges (AoC), but was forced to call off a planned strike in October after AoC gained a High Court injunction.
At a special FE sector conference in Manchester on Saturday delegates decided against taking further action over the claim, and rejected motions calling for a programme of escalating strikes. Instead, delegates agreed to focus on implementing an “effective strategy” for the 2015-16 bargaining round, which is due to start in February.
In a letter to UCU members, Michael MacNeil, national head of bargaining and negotiations, wrote: “Conference agreed that UCU must retain industrial action as part of its armoury to fight for better pay and improved terms and conditions for its members but the majority of those present questioned whether the current approach and ballot made tactical sense.”
He said delegates voted for a “new approach to support meaningful national bargaining” in England.
Back in June the AoC made what it called its “full and final offer” in the pay negotiations with unions representing college staff.
The deal included removing the lowest current pay grade, with staff placed on the new grade receiving a 2 per cent increase. Staff working in roles above the base rate would receive a 1 per cent increase under the offer.
But UCU said the deal would amount to a “real-terms pay cut” and balloted to strike.
Despite the UCU’s stance, the offer was accepted by the five other unions involved in negotiations, AMiE, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, GMB, Unison and Unite and the AoC has said it will press ahead with implementation.
The UCU said it would now launch a new national approach to bargaining on important issues between local branches and colleges, such as lesson observations, zero-hours contracts or tackling the misuse of associate lecturers.
Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “Strikes are very disruptive for colleges and more importantly for students, so we are pleased that UCU has decided against any further strike action. We look forward to productive discussions around the national pay offer next year.”
UCU strike off after High Court injunction – October 2014
UCU strike: Union members in colleges to walk out next month over pay- September 2014
FE strike looms as pay talks end without agreement - May 2014