Over 200 colleges will be affected by tomorrow's strike, unions claim

Thousands expected to walk out over pay freeze

Will Martin

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More than 200 colleges are expected to be affected as thousands of FE staff across the country take part in tomorrow's one-day national strike.

Unison and the University and College Union (UCU) members will walk out in response to the Association of Colleges' recommendation that its members do not offer a pay rise for 2015-16.

In a ballot that closed earlier this month, 66 per cent of Unison members backed industrial action, while 74 per cent of UCU members voted to go on strike at the end of last year. UCU held its first one-day strike in November.

The unions say that college staff have suffered a real-terms pay cut of 17.1 per cent over the past five years. While the AoC represents colleges in the annual pay negotiations, each college is free to set its own pay policy and decide whether to accept the AoC's recommendations.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "Some colleges have promised their employees a pay rise, but the vast majority are determined not to budge from the 0 per cent recommended. We urge the association to follow the example of those more enlightened colleges who want to come back to the table to try to resolve this dispute. The real villains in this dispute are government ministers, whose funding cuts over several years have left colleges in dire financial straits. But it shouldn't be further education employees paying the price."

'Insult' to staff

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt described the pay freeze as "an insult to the commitment and enthusiasm of staff". She added: "Strike action is always a last resort but our members are clear that the AoC needs to return to the table with an appropriate pay offer in order to resolve this dispute."

Marc Whitworth, the AoC's director of employment policy and services, said strikes were "very disruptive for colleges and more importantly for students". He added: "The pay recommendation of 0 per cent made by the Association of Colleges reflects the specific financial challenges faced by our members.

"Colleges are facing increases to pension and national insurance contributions during 2015-16 and this, coupled with reductions in funding, means that we have been unable to recommend an unsustainable increase in costs to our college members. No further dialogue has been scheduled with our union colleagues regarding this cycle of negotiations."

Members of the NUT teaching union working in sixth-form colleges are also balloting for strike action over funding cuts.

For live coverage of the strike, follow @tesfenews on Twitter.

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Will Martin picture

Will Martin

Will is a junior reporter at TES

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