Country-wide strikes could hit colleges this autumn after University and College Union members voted to ballot for national action.
Union members will vote at the start of the next academic year on whether to go on strike over pay and workloads. It comes weeks after the Association of Colleges (AoC) doubled down on its refusal to make a pay proposal for next year.
The ballot will be launched in September and if successful, strikes could begin from October.
“Low pay, high workloads and a bargaining framework that does not deliver for staff have created a crisis in further education,” said UCU general secretary Jo Grady.
Union congress members voted yes to a ballot after a recent e-ballot of around 18,000 UCU members at 190 college branches found 87 per cent said yes to strike action. Turnout was over 50 per cent.
The UCU, along with four other education unions, are asking for a pay increase of 15.4 per cent, a national workload agreement and binding national pay negotiations.
Last year, the AoC recommended that colleges give staff a 2.5 per cent pay increase contrary to the unions demand of a 10 per cent uplift.
“We refuse to allow employers to push our members into poverty, neither will we accept workloads that leave our members working every hour under the sun,” Grady said. “Unless they come to the table with a decent offer we will begin balloting at colleges across England from September.”
AoC chief executive David Hughes said in April that his association could not offer a pay recommendation to its members for 2023/24 because “colleges simply can’t afford to make a meaningful offer” that would not be “an insult to the hard-working staff”.
The association has since called for central government to cough up more cash for colleges, adding that making a pay offer at this stage would “let the government off the hook”.
Hughes also said there wasn’t enough money in the FE sector to guarantee that pay at least matches the offer to schoolteachers.
Earlier this month, the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) recommended a 6.5 per cent salary increase for school teachers this year.
The pay gap between school and college teachers is already around £8,000.