Lambeth College walkout

Staff at Lambeth College have voted in favour of a new walkout over employment contracts — just six months after launching an indefinite strike only to return to work just before the summer holidays.

The possible action by members of the University and College Union (UCU) includes another indefinite strike, a one-day strike or a series of escalating strikes, said a UCU spokesperson.

No date has yet been set for the strike, although the UCU said it would announce its plans “in the coming days”.

Union members claim contracts for new staff, introduced by the college in April will leave them with longer working hours, less annual leave and less sick pay.

A strike ballot which opened on September 22 was shelved in early October while the union considered an “improved offer” from the college, where existing staff would stay on the original contract until September 2017, or accept a £1,500 “cash incentive” to transfer to the new contract.

Mark Silverman

Mark Silverman

In the latest ballot, 66 UCU members to strike, of a turnout of 80 members, which has a total of 250 teaching staff.

Principal Mark Silverman (pictured), who came to the college two years ago tasked with improving the college’s financial sustainability after it was hit with an Ofsted grade four inspection result, said the new contracts were necessary.

“The unwillingness of UCU to accept that the new contract is for new staff only, and to acknowledge that it still offers new staff better terms and conditions than they could expect to receive elsewhere in the sector, is almost beyond belief,” he said.

“Improvements at the college over the last two years are evident, but we remain in financial recovery and await an Ofsted inspection.

“I call on UCU to acknowledge that to take strike action when only a quarter of our teaching staff support it is reckless, and that irresponsible and unmerited strike action will achieve nothing, other than to undermine those improvements and jeopardise the future of the college.”

A UCU spokesperson said: “We want to resolve this matter as quickly as possible and are ready to negotiate with the college leaders, but the support for renewed action must serve as a wake-up call to the college.

“It is clear that staff remain strongly opposed to the current proposals, and any attempts to railroad them through will meet strong resistance.”