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Strikes on tomorrow across all six Northern Ireland colleges over pay row

23 March 2021 | last updated: 24 March 2021

UCU members across all six Northern Ireland further education colleges will down tools tomorrow (Wednesday) after Stormont failed to address staff concerns over pay and terms & conditions.

UCU members at the six colleges - Belfast Metropolitan College, North West Regional College, Northern Regional College, South Eastern Regional College, South West College and Southern Regional College - will take part in an online strike rally over Zoom at 10.45am tomorrow morning. They will be joined by UCU general secretary Jo Grady, UCU president-elect Janet Farrar, and UCU Northern Ireland official Katharine Clarke. 

The dispute centres on Northern Ireland Minister for the Department for the Economy (DfE) Diane Dodds and her department's failure to increase college funding so that employers can pay staff fairly.  

College employers advised UCU the most they could offer from within existing college budgets for a pay award was 7% over a four year period. The employers acknowledged the offer is insufficient, both in terms of properly rewarding staff, and addressing ongoing problems of recruitment and retention.  

UCU said the offer is barely better than pay restraint and fails to adequately compensate for the years when lecturers received no cost of living increases at all. The union also rubbished claims by the DfE that decisions of the department have no bearing on the negotiations. 

The strike action will be immediately followed by continuous action short of a strike unless Minister Dodds and the DfE secure more funding for colleges and a proper pay rise for college lecturers. This industrial action will see UCU members only working to contracted hours, refusing to work overtime, and boycotting any unagreed additional duties.    

UCU Northern Ireland official Katharine Clarke said: 'UCU members are going on strike tomorrow because they have received a paltry 3.8% increase in total since 2013/14. School teachers have received 11.25% over the same period. The offer of 7% over four years in the context of the previous capped awards equates to 1.2% per year over a nine year period. No other workforce in the public sector has been subject to such a derisory increase.  

'The DfE's contention that it has nothing to do with this dispute is both untrue and deliberately misleading. The DfE determines the level of funding allocated to colleges, and as such is clearly responsible for stagnating pay. UCU has requested to meet with DfE Minister Diane Dodds on numerous occasions to try to avoid the disruption that will be caused by industrial action. Yet the minister has consistently refused our request for a meeting, she will not talk and she continues to shirk her responsibility for the underfunding of the six regional colleges.' 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'UCU members in colleges across Northern Ireland are tired of seeing their pay eroded. UCU cannot understand why the DfE values the work of our members so poorly. College staff have delivered high quality teaching and learning online, they have gone above and beyond providing pastoral care to their students struggling to cope with the challenging environment lockdown restrictions present. Unless the DfE recognises this effort with a fair pay award, industrial action will continue.' 

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