Planned strike action at Richmond upon Thames College over “fire and rehire” plans have been suspended to enable arbitration talks, the University and College Union has confirmed.
Union members at the college in June announced plans to picket over 14 consecutive days in August and September to coincide with the start of the new term.
It follows five days of industrial action in May after the UCU said management intended to “issue notices to sack every teacher at the college and force them to reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions if they wanted to stay.”
But the UCU late on Friday confirmed the latest walkout, which would have affected the enrolment of new students, has been put on ice for now so that talks through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) can take place.
“This is a remarkable show of goodwill from committed staff facing the threat of fire and rehire, so it’s crucial that RUTC senior management seize this opportunity to work with us to resolve the dispute,” the UCU said.
“UCU members have always been prepared to work with the employer to reach a fair and just negotiated settlement, but industrial action short of a strike continues and we cannot rule out further strike action in the coming weeks if talks are unsuccessful.”
The dispute arose over planned changes to annual leave which would have seen the 64 days of current annual leave (including bank holidays and efficiency days) reduced to what the college said was “a level in line with other FE colleges”.
The UCU said that would mean staff losing 10 days of holiday, but the college said this was a net loss of eight days of annual leave with full financial compensation.
In response to the strike freeze, a Richmond upon Thames College spokesperson said: “Our priority from the outset has been to reach a fair agreement regarding necessary teaching contract changes which support improvements in the learning experience for our students and bring pay and holiday in line with other colleges.
“A significant majority of teaching staff have signed up to the new contracts, recognising that the new offer is a fair one that compensates staff fully for the reduction in annual leave, and thereby increases their salary during a time of cost-of-living rises.”
The spokesperson added that they welcomed the opportunity to reach a resolution “over the next few days” with the withdrawal of the planned strike.