Strike action at Bury College has been called off at the eleventh hour after leaders agreed to give staff a pay rise worth triple their original offer.
Staff at six colleges in the North west had planned to strike today over staff pay – the same day that many GCSE students are due to take what University and College Union calls a “crucial English exam”.
UCU had demanded that colleges increase pay by at least 8.5 per cent to meet the cost-of-living crisis.
However, an agreement was reached between Bury College and its UCU branch meaning that strike action has been avoided.
Staff at Bury College will receive a permanent pay award of 3 per cent and will be given a non-consolidated payment in this and the next financial year of £1000.
UCU claims that the offer is worth between 6 per cent and 6.2 per cent and is triple management’s original offer of 2 per cent.
Strikes at the other five colleges – Burnley College, City of Liverpool College, Hopwood Hall, Nelson & Colne College Group, and Oldham College – have gone ahead as planned.
UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: “The offer made by Bury College in recognition of our members’ incredible work is great news for both staff and students. It means the college is now able to avoid disruption during this crucial examination period.
“To avoid further strike action, management at the other colleges need to look at Bury and see what can be achieved when bosses engage with us on pay. With inflation and energy costs soaring, they urgently need to raise pay so we can avoid any further disruption.”
A spokesperson for Bury College told FE Week that their staff “aspire to provide the best for every student”.
“At the same time, our staff’s welfare is of utmost importance and the college has maintained throughout negotiations the need to balance a desire to make the best offer possible to staff in these difficult times, with its duty to maintain financial sustainability and manage future risk,” they said.
“By combining an approach of offering a consolidated pay award of 3 per cent along with a non-consolidated payment in this and the next financial year we feel we have been able to strike that balance.”
Staff at the other five colleges on strike today were on picket lines at college entrances and an online rally took place with UCU general secretary Jo Grady.
“UCU is demanding the other colleges follow Bury’s example and make improved pay offers to meet the cost-of-living crisis,” UCU said in a statement.
The union said that the Manchester College – the largest further education college in the UK – is also set for action “short of a strike” on May 20. This includes working to contract, not covering for absent colleagues or vacant posts, and not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action.
UCU noted that since 2009 pay in further education has fallen behind inflation by 35 per cent and the pay gap between school and college teachers stands at around £9,000.
Photo: Protestors on the picket line at Burnley College. Credit: UCU Burnley College