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In the news: 11 May

Unions brand employers' refusal to consider pay claim an 'unnecessary provocation'

FE Week reported anger from further education unions today over a refusal by the Association of Colleges (AoC) to consider the pay claim for 2018/19 while local disputes about the 2017/18 pay claim are ongoing.

In a joint letter to the AoC chief executive, David Hughes, the unions branded the move an 'unnecessary provocation' and said it risked undermining 'the credibility and relevance of the AoC to the sector'.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, told Tes: 'The AoC's refusal to consider next year's pay claim is inflammatory and deeply unhelpful. Attempting to put pressure on striking staff in this way is completely unacceptable. The sector needs effective national bargaining where decisions on pay and conditions are binding. Unless the AoC urgently changes its position we will be submitting the national claim at a local level.'


Shadow chancellor joins calls to protect migrant workers' right to strike

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has teamed up with Sally Hunt to in the Independent to challenge Home Office rules which mean migrant workers can't play a full part in industrial action without threatening their immigration status.

The problem came to light during the recent USS strikes, where international staff raised concerns about taking part because of the 20-day limit on unpaid leave for migrant workers on Tier 2 visas. UCU wrote to the Home Office for clarification but the response from immigration minister Caroline Nokes simply said "full regard will be given to the circumstances" when considering whether migrant workers had breached the rules.

Writing in the Independent Sally Hunt said: 'All staff should be able to play a full part in legitimate strike action without fear of reprisal, regardless of where they are from. Migrant workers contribute to our economy and should be able to join their colleagues in defending their employment rights.

International staff need an unequivocal, written guarantee from the government that days spent taking legitimate strike action will not put their immigration status at risk.'


Hull College Group begin strike action over job cuts

Staff at Hull College Group took part in their first day of strike action this week, with two further days planned for 17 and 18 May. The strikes are over proposals to cut 231 full-time equivalent posts across campuses in Hull, Harrogate and Goole - a move which UCU says would see a third of the workforce being lost.

UCU regional official Julia Kelley told StrayFM and the Hull Daily Mail: 'The proposed job cuts will be deeply damaging for current students and for the future availability of education for local people. To avoid further unnecessary disruption to students, the college needs to call an urgent halt to these proposals and work with UCU to explore better alternatives.'


Pay strikes to hit 10 colleges in May and June

Strike action at ten colleges on dates throughout May and June started this week, with Tower Hamlets College and Hackney Community College out today. FE Week highlighted how the dispute centres on a below inflation pay offer of just 1% from the Association of Colleges, whilst TES emphasised that staff have suffered years of pay suppression and have seen their pay drop by 25% in real terms since 2009

Speaking to the East London Advertiser, Sally Hunt said, 'Strike action is a last resort, but we have no option in the face of repeated pay awards below inflation. The colleges need to address these concerns if they want to avoid further disruption to students in the coming weeks.'


UCU renews calls for admissions reform

UCU this week responded to a report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and the think tank Brightside, which made recommendations for the new director of fair access and participation. Proposals included reopening the debate on post-qualifications admissions (PQA), curbing the use of unconditional offers and prioritising support for part time students.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'UCU is a long-standing advocate of a move to PQA and this report shows that it's time for a rethink. Admissions staff support a move to a system based on actual grades rather than vague estimates of student potential. PQA would help level the playing field for students from different backgrounds and remove the problems associated with unconditional offers.'

Responding to the report, the incoming director of fair access and participation Chris Millward said students needed 'a more transparent and sophisticated admissions system that tackles the gap between potential and opportunity'.

Last updated: 11 May 2018