National college strike by UCU and Unison called for 24 February

Stephen Exley

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Lecturers and support staff in colleges across the country will strike over pay later this month.

The joint action by members of the University and College Union (UCU) and Unison working in English colleges will take place on 24 February.

The strike comes after the employers’ representatives, the Association of Colleges (AoC), recommended a pay freeze. The unions say that college staff have suffered a real-terms pay cut of 17.1 per cent over the past five years. UCU members walked out in November as part of the dispute, affecting more than 200 colleges. They will now be joined on picket lines by Unison members later this month.

Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of UCU members who voted backed strike action in the union’s ballot at the end of last year. Last week, Unison members also backed industrial action with two-thirds (66 per cent) of their members who voted supporting the walkout.

UCU head of bargaining Michael MacNeil said: “Staff in further education colleges are understandably sick of the employers’ refusal to deal with the real-terms pay cuts that blight the sector. Our members demonstrated in November that they are prepared to take action on this issue and are delighted that colleagues from Unison will be joining them on the picket lines.”

Jon Richards, Unison’s head of education, said: “After years of flatlining, wages across much of the economy are slowly picking up, but not for those in further education. Faced with the prospect of yet another year with no pay rise, staff have understandably decided that enough is enough, and have taken the difficult decision to take action later this month. College workers will be hoping that the announcement of strike action is enough to get the Association of Colleges back around the table and in meaningful negotiations.”

AoC director of employment policy and services Marc Whitworth said: “Strikes are very disruptive for colleges and more importantly for students. The employers ‎note the support for strike action however we are not in a position to recommend general uplifts on pay where specific financial challenges are faced by our members. The employers have outlined clearly that colleges are facing increases to pension and national insurance contributions during 2015/16 and this coupled with reductions in funding mean that a recommendation to members to increase costs is not sustainable."

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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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