More than 200 colleges expected to be hit by UCU strike action

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.

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  1. I work in the justice sector and receive far less pay than my college colleagues. We operate under restrictive conditions that make justice sector teachers/tutors/trainers/assessor far more flexible and creative in their delivery and resource development. We have, in general good and outstanding success rates including above national average functional skills percentage rates, good OTL grade profiles and have far less annual leave.
    UCU punting for a 5% increase in pay is a joke in the current climate. In speaking to a union colleague today they said it was important to aim high to attain a decent increase in pay. I said why don’t you go for 10%? That’s high!
    They said it was unrealistic. I replied, so is 5%!
    It’s like wanting new car forecourt prices for a second hand cars. It’s not going to happen.
    Stop wasting everyone’s time and impacting on the learners, call off the strike and get round the table to negotiate professionally.

    Bottom line, 2% is a realistic objective

    • It’s hard to professionally negotiate with the AoC when they can’t even guarantee the 1% agreed last year. We at Kingston College are still waiting for last year’s 1%. If they can’t pay what’s agreed, what’s our incentive to negotiate? Especially when their bottom line is 0%.

      0% is “realistic” in the eyes of the AoC.

      But thanks for the imputation on the striker’s professionality; do you not think we’ve thought long and hard about thr impact on our learners, and the long-term survival of the sector?

      I’m currently struggling to pay transport to college and rent. I am considering leaving the profession and going back to the private sector where I earned £5000 a year more than now for typing letters for solicitors, for shorter hours, without the stress and pressures and responsibilities I have now.

  2. This is undoubtedly the marmite of all debates at the moment.

    There are very few people that would say that teachers & support staff across all ages don’t work extremely hard under increasingly difficult conditions. But, salaries, although being squeezed through a higher cost of living and a freeze, or minimal increase in pay, are still of a reasonable standard based on the funding available for the sector.

    Using strike action can put pressure on the pay masters to back down and agree to ‘better’ terms and in many cases, does.

    But what then? There is only a limited amount of money available and we know that this will continue to go down over the next few years.

    Any pay increase, no matter how deserved, will need to be paid for by reducing services in other areas.

    I have huge respect for the work of F.E. personnel, and teachers of all disciplines do work hard and diligently on behalf of their learners and wider institutions, but if we are to increase pay without increasing income generation, then something has to give.

    This is definitely a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’