Union votes to take action over pensions
University and College Union (UCU) members voted at their annual congress last weekend to continue co-ordinated industrial action over changes to their pensions. A joint strike with school-teacher unions is expected on 30 June, subject to ballots by the NUT and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL). But a motion that criticised the strike on 24 March for failing to co-ordinate with other unions whose members are in the teachers' pension scheme was rejected. Peter Jones of the UCU's Wales council said the union should not have to depend on the ATL or the NASUWT schoolteacher union - which has not yet balloted for a strike - in order to take action.
Observation boycott college reaps inspection success
A two-year boycott of lesson observations at Westminster Kingsway College, London, has proved no barrier to the college earning a "good" rating from Ofsted. College lecturer Peter Green told the UCU conference that the inspection showed large amounts of internal observations were not necessary. He said: "It's the most overwhelmingly popular thing we've ever done." At Harrow College, Middlesex, lecturers said their system of observations and performance-related pay had been scrapped after redundancies among managers meant there were too few staff to carry out observations.
Lecturers' strike fines will help support students
Lecturers at City of Sunderland College have said they have won an agreement from college management that money docked from their pay as a result of strikes will be paid into a student support fund. Officials at the UCU conference said they had asked for similar deals in the past, but colleges' concerns over the loss of the education maintenance allowance (EMA) meant they were now more likely to agree. The union resolved to campaign for the restoration of the EMA, arguing that English students should have parity with those in Wales and Scotland, and said the Government's concession of a pound;180 million bursary scheme showed its campaign was having an effect.
UCU members slam large pay hikes for principals
Members of the UCU have condemned the large pay rises awarded to principals while budgets for colleges were being cut. Last year, they said principals were awarded an average of 3.6 per cent, while they agreed to a 1.5 per cent pay rise for teaching staff - which is not even binding on colleges. They said it followed an eight-year trend of principals receiving pay rises which were more than twice as large as those offered to their staff. David Armstrong (left), a lecturer at Barnet College and UCU FE committee member, said: "While we are told there is no money for pay rises, for better working conditions, the very people who are telling us that are laughing all the way to the bank."
Blackpool and the Fylde joins group of largest colleges
Blackpool and the Fylde College has become the latest member of the 157 Group, which represents 28 of the largest colleges in FE. It is the first new member of the group since FE Focus revealed that it had relaxed its requirements for members to have an Ofsted rating of grade 2 or above after a handful of members underwent adverse inspections. Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the group, said: "They will be a valuable addition to our membership and enhance our geographical spread. They have a national reputation for innovation and excellence in learning, providing a diverse range of provision for thousands of learners across the region."