Voting begins in college strike ballot

The ballot comes as skills minister Anne Milton told colleges the Department for Education would not fund any college pay rise

Staff on the picket line at Lewisham Southwark College

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) in colleges are being balloted for strike action in a row over pay.

A strike ballot has opened at 110 colleges in England that have not yet confirmed they will accept the 2018-19 pay claim.

FE unions have submitted to employers' body the Association of Colleges (AoC) a pay claim of 5 per cent for the 2018-19 academic year, and a guaranteed minimum increase of £1,500 for the lowest paid staff.

Pay in FE is set through national negotiations between the AoC and unions representing FE staff: the UCU, the NEU, Unison, GMB and Unite. If an agreement is struck, it is then down to individual colleges to decide whether to implement it.

No DfE cash for FE pay rise

UCU said college staff have seen their pay fall by 25 per cent over the past decade. Earlier this week the Association of Colleges (AoC) revealed its request for extra funding from the Department for Education had been rejected.

In July, AoC chief executive David Hughes wrote to the education secretary Damian Hinds calling for a pay deal of "at least" 5 per cent over two years. Skills minister Anne Milton responded to the letter last week saying there will be no extra funding for FE until the 2019 spending review at the earliest.

This is despite the DfE announcing last month that school teachers are set for a pay rise of up to 3.5 per cent from September.

'Some principals pocket double-digit pay rises'

The union said colleges would have been “foolish to rely solely on a government plea to meet staff pay expectations” and must now find the money from elsewhere.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Staff working in our colleges and universities have had enough of seeing their wages held down while some principals pocket double-digit pay rises and max out expense accounts.

“The pay offers do nothing to address years of decline in the value of our members’ pay and have left us with no option but to ballot for strike action.

“Colleges need to make the investment in staff a top priority and that starts with a fair pay offer.”

The ballot closes on Friday 19 October.

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