More 200 colleges could be hit with strike action tomorrow (November 10), as members of the University and College Union (UCU) walk out in a dispute with the Association of Colleges (Aoc) over pay.
The union estimates that 20,000 members of staff at 207 colleges could take part in the strike, which was called after talks last month between the two parties over the AoC’s proposal for a pay freeze in 2015/16 failed to reach agreement.
And with the industrial action fast approaching neither side said it was planning last ditch talks to avert the strike.
“UCU members are sick of the employers’ refusal to deal with the real-terms pay cuts that have blighted the sector,” said UCU general secretary Sally Hunt.
“Members who voted gave a clear mandate for strike action and we will be taking action tomorrow. We hope the employers will now come back to the table,” she added.
The UCU announced on October 28 that it would strike after a ballot of members on the pay freeze proposal resulted in 74 per cent of those who voted (4,184) backing industrial action.
According to the UCU, the vote came after employers, represented by the AoC, rejected a request for £1 per hour extra for staff.
Marc Whitworth, the AoC’s director of employment policy and services said its pay proposal “reflects the stringent financial circumstances in the sector and the significant external pressures on college pay bills” and was based on feedback from AoC members.
“Strikes are very disruptive for colleges and more importantly for students. We would encourage UCU to consider how we might better work together to represent our respective members collectively,” he said.
“There is a willingness from the employers’ side to work together to protect the prospects of further education, its skilled workforce and the students it serves,” he added.
UCU will be holding a rally at the Emmanel Centre, Westminster, tomorrow from 1pm with speakers including Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Shadow Skills Minister Gordon Marsden.
A rally will also be held at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, Birmingham, from 11am, with speakers including UCU president Liz Lawrence.
The AoC said it did not have a figure for the number of colleges it expected to be affected by the strike.