New year strike threat at 16 English colleges in row over pay

19 December 2018

Sixteen colleges* in England face strike action in the new year in an ongoing row over pay. UCU members at ten colleges have voted for industrial action and can join colleagues at six colleges who took action in November in the next wave of strikes.

Overall, 89% of UCU members backed strike action. However, only members in ten colleges will be able to join the action because anti-trade union laws require a turnout of 50% for the ballot to stand.

Overall the turnout was 48%, which is higher than the 45% turnout for the London Mayor election in 2016 and considerably higher than the 26% average turnout for the metro mayor elections last year.

The union said its officers would meet as soon as possible to discuss plans for further strikes. The dispute centres on the failure of college bosses to make a decent pay offer to staff who have seen their pay decline by 25% over the last decade.

The pay gap between teachers in colleges and schools currently stands at £7,000. The union said low pay was bad for staff, students and colleges. Around two-thirds of college heads say pay is a major obstacle for them when it comes to attracting staff.

UCU said colleges could not hide behind government cuts and if they wanted to avoid disruption in 2019 they should follow the lead of Capital City College Group who recently agreed a 5% pay deal for its 1,700 staff.

UCU head of policy Matt Waddup said: 'It is a testament to the strength of feeling about their treatment that UCU members have voted in such large numbers to take strike action. Sixteen colleges will face significant disruption in the new year unless they agree to do more to address the pay and conditions of their staff. 

'Government cuts are hurting the further education sector, but too many colleges use them as an excuse to do little or nothing. Colleges who wish to avoid being targeted for action need to follow the example of CCCG group who agreed a 5% pay deal for staff. 

'More colleges would be facing strikes if it was not for the anti-trade union laws introduced by this government. These laws curtail people's democratic right to strike in a manner that is not used in any other part of society.'

The full results are available here.

* The 16 colleges are the ten whose ballots closed today and met the 50% threshold:
Abingdon and Witney College, Bridgwater and Taunton College, City of Wolverhampton College, Coventry College, East Sussex College, Harlow College, Hugh Baird College, Kendal College, Leicester College, West Thames College

And the six who took action in November:
Bath College, Bradford College, Croydon College, Lambeth College, New College Swindon and Petroc in Devon.

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