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Lecturers to strike over colleges' 'refusal to do anything to address falling pay'

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced plans for a strike among its members teaching in further education colleges.

Lecturers will stage a one-day national walkout on 3 December in the union's dispute over pay, on the same day that the unions’ members in universities will also be taking to the picket line.

The move comes after the union rejected a 0.7 per cent pay rise on offer from the Association of Colleges (AoC), which is holding its annual conference in Birmingham this week. Under the deal, staff earning £14,052 or less would receive a flat pay rise of £282.

In the strike ballot, in which 26 per cent of UCU’s FE members voted, 71 per cent voted in favour of taking action.

The AoC has hit back, claiming that the strike “risks damaging the education and training of students” and “undermines the reputation” of the sector.

But the union said that the offer on the table from AoC – which negotiates on behalf of its member colleges, but leaves them free to decide whether to pass on pay rises to staff – would effectively leave college lecturers with a 15 per cent pay cut in real terms over the past four years.

“This result is a reflection of our members’ anger at the employers’ refusal to do anything to address falling pay at a time when the cost of living continues to rise,” said UCU’s head of bargaining Michael MacNeil.

He added that the offer meant its members would “fail to make up any ground against school teachers’ pay, despite increasing workloads”.

UCU, however, is the only FE union to engage in strike action over the offer. The AoC has announced that the other members of the national joint forum (NJF) - Unison, AMiE, ATL, Unite and GMB – have accepted its pay offer.

Emma Mason, the AoC’s director of employment policy and services, said it was “disappointed” by UCU’s move.

“Their decision stands in stark contrast to the response of the other five nationally recognised unions who have accepted the recommendation and reached agreement with AoC,” she said.

“The pay recommendation … increases the recommended minimum hourly rate to £7.45 in line with the UK Living Wage. This offer reflects the very real financial constraints our member colleges are facing.

“UCU’s pursuit of an unrealistic 5 per cent pay claim and its threat of industrial action risks damaging the education and training of students, undermines the reputation of colleges both locally and nationally and places an undue burden on non-teaching staff and non-union members to take measures to minimise disruption to the student experience.”

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