Lambeth College staff could strike again after rejecting ‘improved’ contract offer

Lambeth College staff who went on a five-week strike earlier this year have rejected “improved” offers over contract changes.

University and College Union (UCU) members walked out indefinitely on June 3 in a dispute over new staff contracts introduced on April 1, which the UCU said would leave staff with longer working hours, less sick pay and less annual leave, before returning to work on July 9.

The UCU confirmed two weeks ago that it had cancelled a ballot for further strike action to allow members to vote on whether they wanted to accept “improved” offers from college bosses.

But a spokesperson said today these had been rejected by 92 per cent of branch members who voted — although it is understood less than 55 per cent of UCU members who work at the college took part in the ballot.

He said: “Members have voted overwhelmingly against the proposals made by management, as is their democratic right. Any sensible employer would be working hard to try and resolve the issue and repair staff relations.

He added: “We will now be seeking approval from the officers for a fresh industrial action ballot.

“In the meantime we hope the college recognises the strength of feeling among staff and agrees to fresh talks aimed at resolving the outstanding issues.”

No date has so far been set for when a ballot for further industrial action could be launched.

The college offered a guarantee that staff taken on before April 1 would have stayed on the original contract until at least September 2017.

Alternatively, existing staff could have accepted a £1,500 “cash incentive” to transfer to the new contract by September 2016.

Both options were dependent on staff agreeing to work an extra hour per week from September — increasing their overall annual working hours from 828 to 864.

After learning that UCU members had rejected both offers, principal Mark Silverman said: “Obviously we are disappointed. The options we proposed were fair, harmonised the two contracts that the UCU branch opposed and provided Lambeth College with a contract that would support the flexible needs of learners and protect the financial viability and long-term sustainability of the college.

“Sadly it’s clear that there is a small minority of staff who seem determined to see the college fail and have little regard for our learners and communities who deserve an outstanding college.

“We have moved from the brink of closure in 2012 to a far stronger position where local people want to come to us to gain qualifications which will help them in their chosen careers.

“The college will focus on supporting our learners and has robust plans in place to do so throughout any industrial action.”

The college was slapped with an Ofsted grade four rating in 2012 but worked its way up to a grade three last year.

Mr Silverman said the new contracts were part of efforts to raise standards at the college.