UCU suspends 14 day strike after college offers new deal

Extensive strikes due to start at Nottingham College today were called off at the eleventh hour after leaders offered a new deal – including reinstating pay for staff who previously signed up to “inferior” contracts.

Members of the University and College Union had been due to walk out for a further 14 days this month, but have agreed to suspend the action for two weeks.

The long-running row centres on what the UCU claims are the college’s attempts to impose contracts that will cut holiday entitlement and see some staff take a pay cut.

The union claims some staff were “bullied” into signing the new contracts in the summer.

UCU members at the college walked out for 15 days in September and October and passed votes of no confidence in their chief executive and chair of governors.

A spokesperson for UCU told FE Week that part of the new offer from Nottingham College includes a “guarantee” that they will re-instate the pay of any staff within the “UCU Bargaining Unit who suffered a loss as a result of the introduction of the new pay arrangements in July”.

The college has also “promised” there will be a maximum limit of 24 hours teaching a week, after it originally offered no limit. This will be in place until the end of the academic year and can be extended another year if more time is needed to agree a new workload agreement.

The spokesperson said it hopes the college will send the final details of the offer by the end of this week. Members will then vote on whether or not to accept and end the dispute.

UCU head of further education Andrew Harden said: “Industrial action is always a last resort but the college’s refusal to negotiate in good faith had left staff with no alternative. We are pleased the college appears to finally recognise the need to work with its staff and not against them.

“Our members have demonstrated that they will not be taken for fools and are prepared to take strike action to defend their jobs. The ball is now firmly in the college’s court and it needs to deliver on its promises.”

Nottingham College chief executive John van de Laarschot said: “I am pleased to confirm that the industrial action at  the college has been suspended for two weeks as both parties continue to work together to bring the dispute to an end.

“College is open as usual (from Tuesday 5 November). Our students have come back from half term full of enthusiasm and work has begun to catch up on any missed learning and ensure that they achieve their qualifications. 

“We would like to thank our students and their parents for their commitment and perseverance during these challenging last few weeks.”

He added: “We don’t wish to comment on individual elements of the offer until full agreement is reached.”