Strike ballots will open at two more colleges in an ongoing dispute over pay.
The ballot of members of the University and College Union (UCU) at Tower Hamlets College and Redbridge College – both in East London – opened on Monday and will close on Friday 1 March.
The union said colleges that wanted to avoid disruption needed to work with it to resolve the dispute. The Capital City College Group recently agreed a 5 per cent pay deal with the union for its 1,700 staff in London, while Hugh Baird College and New College Swindon recently agreed eleventh-hour packages that saw UCU members suspend strike action.
The background: No government funding for college teacher pay rise
Support-staff strike: Unison to ballot college staff for strike action
'Disruption can be avoided'
UCU head of policy Matt Waddup said that when colleges worked with unions to “put staff first”, disruption could be avoided.
He added: “Colleges need to understand they cannot hide behind government cuts to shirk responsibility for their staff.
“Staff have had enough of the excuses for poor pay and conditions. UCU will continue to campaign for more investment from the government, but whether this is forthcoming or not, strikes will continue until colleges show that they are prioritising their staff.”
Pay for college staff is set through national pay negotiations. The Association of Colleges (AoC) represents its member colleges and the FE unions – UCU, NEU, Unison, GMB and Unite – represent staff.
The pay-claim process
In their 2018-19 pay claim, the unions representing college employees asked for a pay rise of 5 per cent or a fixed increase of £1,500 for staff earning less than £30,000 per year. However, the AoC made a pay recommendation of 1 per cent or £250 – whichever is greater.
If staff back strike action, they will join staff at other colleges in a third wave of strikes over pay and conditions in March. Previously, UCU members at six colleges took action in November and members at 13 colleges walked out last month.
Since 2017, new trade union laws have meant that strike action can only take place if a majority of members vote for action and a 50 per cent turnout threshold is passed.