Sixth form teachers vow to continue industrial action

1st May 2009 at 01:00
Switching them to lecturers' contracts means more hours and less pay

Striking teachers at one of the UK's largest colleges who believe their pay will be cut and hours extended if they are made to sign new lecturers' contracts have vowed to continue industrial action.

Staff at Sussex Downs in both the NUT and NASUWT are resisting attempts to harmonise salaries and conditions, which they say would leave them worse off.

Those affected were previously employees of Park College, a sixth form that merged with Sussex Downs in 2003. They still have sixth form contracts, which give them the same rights and a similar pay scale to teachers, but college bosses want them to transfer to lecturers' contracts that would require them to work two weeks more a year and leave them ineligible for higher salaries.

NUT members took action earlier this month, and NASUWT members went on strike for a half day on Tuesday. The unions are now working together to take further joint action.

NASUWT national executive member Eric Skyte said the quality of teaching at Park College would suffer if staff were made to sign the new contracts.

"If salaries reduce, it's going to be hard to recruit high-quality teachers - and especially difficult to persuade them to come from mainstream schools where there are strict pay scales and different rules about working conditions," he said.

"Teachers are being offered the chance to sign new contracts, but few if any have done so. The reason given by Sussex Downs is concern about finances, but because of its size, there must be a large amount of money available."

Lecturers at Sussex Downs have to work about 11 or 12 more days than their sixth form colleagues. The college wants to prevent anyone else from moving on to level three on the PSP sixth form pay scale from level two, a difference of about Pounds 2,000. The higher level does not exist on lecturers' contracts, which new members of staff have had to sign.

A spokesman for Sussex Downs College said classes ran as normal during the strike.

"The college is currently in discussions with recognised teaching unions to ensure that pay and conditions for all staff are fair and affordable," he said.

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