Support staff at 20 colleges will be balloted for strike action.
During a consultation exercise held last month, just under 11,000 college members of the public sector trade union Unison were asked if they would be prepared to take strike action or “action short of strike action”. As a result, support staff at "around 20" colleges will now be asked to vote for strike action. The colleges have not been named.
Unison head of education Jon Richards said: "Following a consultation exercise, Unison is to hold a nationally co-ordinated ballot of around 20 further education colleges across England. If college support staff vote to take action over pay, the plan would be to co-ordinate action with UCU later in the academic year."
Unison members in colleges work in a variety of roles, including training and assessment, technician roles, library services, facilities, administration, specialist learning support, curriculum support, catering, IT, data, finance and procurement. They are among the lowest paid workers in colleges, with a recent Unison survey revealing that 12.7 per cent struggled to pay for food and one in 50 was forced to rely on a food bank.
5 per cent pay offer rejected
Pay for college staff is set through national pay negotiations. The Association of Colleges (AoC) represents its member colleges and the FE unions – the UCU, NEU, Unison, GMB and Unite – represent staff.
In their 2018-19 pay claim, the unions representing college employees asked for a pay rise of 5 per cent, or a fixed increase of £1,500 for staff earning less than £30,000 per year. However the Association of Colleges made a pay recommendation of 1 per cent, or £250 – whichever is greater.
So far in the 2018-19 academic year, members of the University and College Union at 16 colleges have met the legal threshold for strikes to take place, with walk-outs affecting colleges across England last month.
Since 2017, new trade union laws have meant that strike action can only take place if a majority of members vote for action and a 50 per cent turnout threshold is passed.