Eleven colleges in England could face strike action over pay, the University and College Union has said.
The UCU has opened ballots for industrial action in 10 colleges, including the City of Liverpool College, South Thames Colleges Group and Truro and Penwith College, over pay, and has opened a separate ballot at Capital City College Group over pay, working conditions, and compulsory redundancies. The ballots close on 14 July.
The UCU is demanding a pay increase of greater than 5 per cent in an effort to close the school-college pay gap. The union said this came after more than a decade of below-inflation FE pay increases, and highlighted that in August 2020, further education saw a £400 million increase in funding. The Association of Colleges, which represents employers in pay negotiations, recommended a pay offer of a 1 per cent increase.
Currently, the pay gap between college and school teachers stands at £9,000 and staff working in further education have suffered real-terms pay cuts of over 30 per cent in the past decade.
Jo Grady: College staff 'should not have to threaten to strike to get fair pay'
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Employers have millions more in the bank after government investment, so staff should not have to threaten to strike to be paid fairly. Colleges across England need to urgently offer staff a decent pay increase to avoid disruption.
“College staff have seen their pay cut by over 30 per cent in real terms and we are supporting members to vote ‘yes’ in a ballot to take strike action in the autumn. Strong, properly funded further education is central to creating a fairer society, and is more important than ever as we come out of the recent pandemic. Thriving colleges can help tackle social, economic and regional inequalities, allowing people to upskill and return to education. There is plenty of time to resolve these disputes before any student is affected.
In full: The colleges being balloted
City College Plymouth
City of Bristol College
The City of Liverpool College
South Thames Colleges Group
New College Swindon
Truro and Penwith College
A ballot has also opened at Capital City College Group over pay, working conditions, and compulsory redundancies.
'Open with UCU colleagues'
A spokesperson for Capital City College Group said: “We have been open with our UCU colleagues about our proposals to reduce 25 FTEs (full time equivalent), which are for a variety of reasons including reducing staff numbers in areas where fewer students are enrolling and class sizes have become untenable.
“As we’ve done in the past, if these proposals come to fruition then we want to manage these changes through voluntary redundancy, not compulsory redundancies, and we have outlined this to our UCU colleagues.
“While we very much regret the potential impact on some of our staff, we think it is reasonable for the college to propose these changes. We have told the UCU that we’d welcome any counter proposals for achieving these same outcomes.”