Unions discuss joint college strike after Unison members back industrial action

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Support staff at English colleges have voted in favour of industrial action over pay.

Almost two-thirds (65.7 per cent) of Unison union members who took part in a ballot last month voted in favour of strike action, while 79.8 per cent said they supported action short of a strike.

TES understands that Unison is in talks with the University and College Union (UCU) about potentially taking joint strike action. UCU members last went on strike on 10 November last year, and further action is being considered.

The Unison ballot, which closed last week, followed the rejection of a 0 per cent pay offer from the employers. Some members had lost an average of £3,000 in real-terms over the last five years, according to Unison. Its further education and sixth-form committee will now meet on Wednesday to consider the next steps in the campaign.

Marc Whitworth, director of employment services and policy at the Association of Colleges, said that the pay recommendation reflected the feedback that the organisation had received from colleges about the stringent financial circumstances in the sector in 2015-16.

“Although not unexpected, it is nevertheless disappointing that Unison balloted its members and we take seriously the feedback from those working hard in college," he said. "We would encourage Unison to consider how we might better work together to represent our respective members collectively and position the further education sector to remunerate more effectively in the longer term. There is a willingness from the employers’ side to continue to engage with our union colleagues to protect the prospects of further education, its skilled workforce and the students it serves.”

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