Five more strikes as Tower Hamlets walkout ends

2nd October 2009 at 01:00
Five new strikes hit colleges across the country this week just days after the month-long Tower Hamlets walkout came to an end

The University and College Union (UCU) is warning that there may be more disputes as colleges prepare to make about 1,300 redundancies in the coming months.

After 18 hours of talks at conciliation service Acas, continuous strike action at Tower Hamlets College was called off last Friday, with UCU satisfied with a deal that there would be no compulsory redundancies.

Barry Lovejoy, UCU's head of further education, said: "Tower Hamlets has the highest unemployment of any borough and needs a strong local college. Staff do a fantastic job in working with some of society's most vulnerable people and I am delighted that the threat of compulsory redundancies has been lifted."

But 34 staff have taken voluntary redundancy and the future of two more who won appeals against being identified for proposed job losses has yet to be determined.

Michael Farley, college principal, said the college had not scrapped its plans for savings but that, as a result of the voluntary departures, along with other cost cuts, he would still be able to achieve his goal of a pound;283,000 surplus this year if recruitment targets were reached.

"I am pleased that the strike has ended," he said. "We need our talent back where it can make the biggest difference, serving our students."

The fresh round of strikes at Doncaster College, Rotherham College of Arts and Technology, Greenwich College, Suffolk New College, and Leeds College of Art and Design on Tuesday was the latest move in a long-standing dispute over pay.

A walkout at Askham Bryan College in York was averted at the last minute after the parties agreed to go to Acas for talks.

The UCU has dubbed the institutions "IOU colleges" over their failure to implement a pay deal dating back to 2004. It believes lecturers could be pound;4,500 better off under a pay structure agreed with the Association of Colleges (Aoc) that allowed for swifter progression.

But several colleges say the deal was unaffordable and failed to take account of local conditions. The agreement with AoC is not binding on them, but more than two-thirds have implemented it or are in talks with the union.

Mr Lovejoy said the threat of redundancies across FE meant further disputes were likely.

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