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Union threatens industrial action over colleges' 'insulting' pay freeze

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One of the country’s largest trade unions will ballot FE workers for industrial action in England in a dispute over pay, it was announced today.

Unison, which represents 25,000 FE workers – largely consisting of college support staff – will open a ballot in the new year to oppose the Association of College’s (AoC) recommendation to implement a pay freeze and deny FE staff a pay rise for 2015-16. Around 80 per cent of its members in FE will be covered by the ballot.

The ballot will cover employees in all colleges that are members of AoC and is open to all staff members, including technicians and support staff. This follows the decision by another union, the University and College Union (UCU), to hold a national one-day strike last month.

The settlement for FE in the government’s spending review was not as severe as had been expected. This prompted the union to demand that AoC rethink its pay policy for 2016. Unison and the other FE unions had called for a £1 per hour pay rise for all staff.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Following years of pay restraint, this non-offer by further education employers is insulting and is driving workers to take their anger to the picket lines. Another year of pay restraint will do nothing to help recruit, retain and motivate staff in the sector.There is still time for employers to come back to the negotiating table and come up with a fair pay offer that rewards staff for the hard work they do.”

Marc Whitworth, AoC's director of employment services and policy, said that its offer reflected the “stringent financial circumstances in the sector”.

“Although not unexpected, it is nevertheless disappointing that Unison will ballot for action in the new year. There is a willingness from the employers’ side to continue to engage with our union colleagues to protect the prospects of FE, its skilled workforce and the students it serves,” he added.

Members of UCU's FE committee are due to meet on 11 December to decide whether it will take any further industrial action.”

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