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Strike action looms at Lambeth College in row over staff contracts

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at Lambeth College in London have overwhelmingly voted for strike action in a row over proposed changes to staff contracts.

Some 89 per cent of UCU members who voted backed the call for action on a turnout of 72 per cent, which the UCU said demonstrated the strength of feeling at the college.

Last month Lambeth introduced new contracts for staff joining after 1 April 2014, which UCU said would leave them with bigger workloads, less sick pay and fewer holidays.

The union said the changes would leave new staff working longer hours than their counterparts in all but three of London’s 38 further education colleges.

Staff had already backed indefinite strike action in a previous ballot, but the college took UCU to court to force an injunction that only allowed a day’s strike action, which took place on May 1.

In February 2012, Lambeth failed its Ofsted inspection with a grade 4, and last summer, as a result of ongoing poor financial performance, was served with a "notice of concern" by the Skills Funding Agency.

A spokesman for the college said it had to take “rapid and decisive action” to secure its future.

He said the new contracts were still “highly attractive” and would allow it to gradually bring about modernisation and change as well as help it reduce its “unsustainable” budget deficit of £3.5 million.

The spokesman added: “Despite our offer to continue talking to UCU, their interest seems to be in preserving the past and are unwilling to accept that change is required to make Lambeth College fit for purpose. 

“We cannot allow the college to stand by and allow that to happen, we simply have to move with the times.”

The union said it will be speaking to local members and expected to announce strike plans early next week. 

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