Last-minute hopes to avoid college strikes

The University and College Union (UCU) said it was calling for eleventh-hour talks with the Association of Colleges (AoC) in a bid to call off strikes.

The union claims that “a series of below-inflation pay offers from the association since 2009 mean FE lecturers have seen their pay cut by more than 15 per cent in real terms”.

Nobody wants to take strike action and lose a day’s pay, but this year’s 0.7 per cent pay offer from the employers was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

And, following a pay offer of 0.7 per cent this year, the union balloted its members in FE colleges in England. More than two thirds of those who voted (71 per cent) backed strike action.

The union, which sought a 5 per cent deal, said its negotiators have offered to clear diaries for talks to avert strikes expected to take place on Tuesday, December 3.

Michael MacNeil, UCU head of bargaining, said: “College lecturers have seen their pay fall by 15 per cent in the past four years and fail to make up any ground against school teachers’ pay, despite increasing workloads.

“Nobody wants to take strike action and lose a day’s pay, but this year’s 0.7 per cent pay offer from the employers was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The UCU strike vote came despite the AoC having reached agreement with Unison, AMiE, ATL, UNITE and GMB through the National Joint Forum.

The AoC declined to comment on the UCU’s call for last-minute talks.

However, when the strike plans were initially announced last month, Emma Mason, AoC director of employment policy and services, told FE Week: “We are disappointed that UCU members have voted to take strike action.”

She added: “The pay recommendation for 2013/14 is for a 0.7 per cent increase and £282 for staff earning £14,052 or less and increases the recommended minimum hourly rate to £7.45 in line with the UK  Living Wage.”