The second wave of strike action by University and College Union members has begun, in an ongoing dispute over pay.
Staff at five colleges or groups – four in London and one in the Midlands – have walked out for two or three days this week in protest at a one-per-cent pay offer from the Association of Colleges, which represents colleges on pay.
“UCU members are striking in defence of their pay and conditions,” said UCU’s general secretary Sally Hunt. “Strike action is a last resort, but staff feel they have been left with no alternative. The colleges urgently need to address members’ concerns or face further industrial action.”
The colleges taking action this week are: Capital City College Group, Croydon College, Lambeth College, Sandwell College and Havering College.
Staff voted “overwhelmingly” for strike action, the union said, with 91 per cent of those who voted backing a second walkout, based on an average turnout of 63 per cent.
The union said staff at further education colleges in England have seen their pay drop by 24 per cent in real terms since 2009.
While the cost of living, expressed through the Retail Price Index, had increased by 27.6 per cent since 2009, pay had gone up by only four per cent.
The latest strike action will see fewer colleges affected than the first wave, which took place on February 28 and March 1, when the UCU estimated that more than 1,500 staff walked out at 11 colleges or groups.
Negotiations between the AoC and college unions last September resulted in an offer of a one-per-cent pay rise or the sum of £250 “where this is more beneficial”.
This was significantly below the claim for an across-the-board rise of six per cent submitted by the National Joint Forum, made up of the unions representing college staff, including UCU.
At the time Mr Hughes expressed “regret” that the AoC was unable to offer more.
“We wish we were in a position to make a better recommendation today, but current funding levels for colleges do not allow us to do so,” he said.