Strikes suspended at two colleges to ratify pay deals

Strike action at two colleges has been suspended at the last minute, after governors at one requested more time to ratify a “landmark” pay deal while the other agreed to hold “further talks”.

University and College Union members at Hugh Baird College are asking for a lecturer pay rise of between three and six per cent over the next two years, as well as an extra five days’ annual leave for 2018/19.

They were scheduled to walk out for two days from tomorrow but this has been delayed after governors promised to meet on February 8 to approve the deal.

If both the union and college are happy following this meeting then the dispute would be resolved and the threat of further strikes planned for March will be lifted.

Strikes have also been suspended at Coventry College after their leadership team agreed to further talks with the union.

UCU members at fourteen other colleges are still due to walk out this week.

The union said the “landmark deal” it is hoping for at Hugh Baird was “further proof that colleges and the union could work together to secure a better deal for staff”.

UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: “This landmark deal sets the bar for other colleges when it comes to the pay and conditions of staff. Too often colleges hide behind low levels of government investment to avoid giving their staff a fair pay deal.

“This deal shows what can be achieved when colleges work with us to avoid disruption and look after their staff. If the governors sign it off then the strikes planned for March can be called off.”

Hugh Baird college principal and chief executive, Yana Williams, said: “Our staff are the most important asset we have at the college to ensure we can provide quality education and support to our communities.

“This deal aims to recognise the importance we place on our staff whilst ensuring college finances remains sustainable at a time when government funding for the further education sector remains the same as it was seven years ago.”

The 14 other colleges scheduled to take strike action this week are: Abingdon and Witney College, Bridgwater and Taunton College, City of Wolverhampton College, East Sussex College, Harlow College, Kendal College, Leicester College, West Thames College, Bath College, Bradford College, Croydon College, Lambeth College, New College Swindon and Petroc.

College staff are unhappy about proposals put forward by the Association of Colleges, which represents college leadership, over pay for 2018/19.

In December the AoC put forward an offer of one per cent even though the UCU requested a five per cent rise, which the union described as a “wholly inadequate response” to the pay crisis in FE.

Capital City College Group agreed a “landmark” pay rise for its staff of up to five per cent late last year – even though this would turn a projected break-even budget into a £2.3 million deficit.