Strike action in higher education

Boost for West Thames College strikers as local MP offers full support

25 January 2019

Striking staff at West Thames College have been given a boost ahead of their two-day walkout over pay next week as local MP Ruth Cadbury has given them her support in their fight for fairer pay.

UCU members will be on picket lines from 7:30am outside the entrances to the college's Isleworth campus. The dispute centres on the failure of colleges to make a decent pay offer to staff who have seen the value of their pay decline by 25% in the past decade. 

Brentford and Isleworth MP Ruth Cadbury said the government's "heartless austerity programme" was behind the fall in staff wages. Teachers in further education colleges are currently paid £7,000 less than their contemporaries teaching in schools.

In the recent ballot all 100% of UCU members at West Thames College who voted backed strike action. The union said further strikes were planned if the college refused to make a decent offer and that it could not hide behind government cuts if it wanted to avoid further disruption. UCU said the college should follow the lead of the Capital City College Group which recently agreed a 5% pay deal for its 1,700 staff in London.

Ruth Cadbury MP for Brentford and Isleworth said: 'I support the staff on strike at West Thames College. Colleges serve a vital role in educating not only a majority of 16-18 year olds, but also in providing jobs, and skills training to adults.

'Under this Government's heartless austerity programme, the value of staff pay has fallen by 25% since 2009, and further education teachers are paid £7,000 less than equivalently experienced school teachers. The Government need to listen to college staff members, and put a substantial amount of reinvestment back into our colleges, rather than cutting them to the bone.'

UCU regional official Una O'Brien said: 'The support from Ruth Cadbury is a real boost for UCU members ahead of strike action next week. We are pleased she is highlighting what has happened to staff pay in the past decade and calling for more cash to deal with the problem.

'Staff at West Thames College have had enough of increasing workloads while their pay is eroded. The college has to prioritise its staff and come back to us with a meaningful offer. If it refuses then further strikes are on the cards.'

UCU members at 15 English colleges* are walking out as part of a second wave of strikes after staff at six colleges took action in November. Around two-thirds of college heads have said pay is a major obstacle in attracting staff.

* Abingdon and Witney College
Bath College
Bradford College
Bridgwater and Taunton College
City of Wolverhampton College
Croydon College
East Sussex College
Harlow College
Hugh Baird College
Kendal College ^
Lambeth College
Leicester College ^
New College Swindon
Petroc
West Thames College

^ In order to maximise the impact of their action, Leicester College UCU members will be taking action on Tuesday 29 and Thursday 31 January and members at Kendal College will be taking action on 29 January and 12 February.

UCU members at Coventry College were also due to be out on 29 and 30 January, but the strikes have been suspended to allow for further talks aimed at resolving the dispute.

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