Staff at Stockport College have voted to accept a pay cut to head off a cash crisis that its principal blames on last year's capital funding debacle.
Unions voted to take reduced pay until August after the college said it risked running so short of money that it might not otherwise be able to pay their salaries at all at the end of the financial year in March.
Wages for 900 staff will be cut by 2 per cent from this month, although the lowest paid 100 will escape reduced pay. In return, unions negotiated an extra three days of holiday.
The college blames its financial crisis on the collapse of its pound;100 million building project after the completion of the first of three construction phases. It was one of dozens to fall by the wayside after the former Learning and Skills Council over-committed its capital budget.
Stockport ran up pound;4.3 million in fees preparing the bid, which it now cannot recover. A judicial review last year prompted by Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education confirmed that colleges were not entitled to compensation.
Lynn Collins, regional official for the North West at the University and College Union, said: "Staff are really angry that they are being required to pay for what appears to be the mistake of the college. There's a real feeling of anger and frustration.
"They were told that, if they didn't reach a solution, there wouldn't be enough money in the bank to pay wages in March. They are angry that they are being asked to pay for this, but they have to face this reality that if action wasn't taken they faced not being paid at all in March."
Ms Collins said the union had advised members that the college would be in breach of contract if it failed to pay them, but that members were taking a pragmatic approach. Instead, the union sought assurances that pay would be restored in August and that jobs would be secure.
Stockport principal Lynn Merilion said the cut would enable the college to save around pound;30,000 to pound;40,000 a month over six months, which would buy it time to complete a deal to sell some of its land and restore its financial position.
Ms Merilion said she hoped staff salaries would be returned to their normal level before the August deadline.
"I think the staff are wonderful, but we've always said that. They are the most important aspect of the college - they are the college," she said.
"What this says about them is that they care about their students and the college. It's a reflection on how dedicated and professional they are.
"It's about enabling us to get over this part of the year where our grant drops from January to March. It's true that if you look at the global income and expenditure of the college, this is a small amount. But it will enable us to get from where we are to April, when grant income goes up."
- Original headline: Staff pay cut helps Stockport to weather the financial storm