University and College Union members in 15 colleges across England have voted for strike action in a row over pay.

College bosses have until September to increase staff pay by more than 5 per cent or they will face walkouts, the union said today.

Eighty nine per cent of members who voted backed strike action, on an average turnout of 62 per cent.

Pay ballots covered Carshalton College, City College Plymouth, City of Bristol College, City of Liverpool College, Croydon College, Kingston College, Lambeth College, Merton College, New College Swindon, Sheffield College, Wandsworth & Tooting College and Weymouth College.

Separate ballots over working conditions, compulsory redundancies and pay covered City & Islington College, Westminster Kingsway College and the College of North East London, which are all part of Capital City College Group. The group is planning to make 30 staff redundant while investing in a controversial “teacherless” tech venture, as revealed by FE Week in June.

In December, the Association of Colleges recommended colleges give their staff a 1 per cent pay rise because of the unforeseen and “severe financial pressure” colleges are facing owing to the Covid-19 pandemic that has “forced many into deficit”.

The UCU said staff are “angry” about this offer after years of joint campaigning with colleges, which won further education £400 million of increased government funding.

A spokesperson added that £224 million of the funding arrived in August 2020 and “should have been used for staff pay, with the AoC indicating it would make a more significant pay recommendation as a result”.

The pay gap between college and schoolteachers currently stands at £9,000 as staff working in further education have suffered real terms pay cuts of over 30 per cent in the past decade.

 

‘Staff will not sit back while their pay is held down’

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “This ballot result is an emphatic message from college staff to principals that they will not sit back while their pay is held down. College leaders urgently need to come to the negotiating table or they will face severe disruption in the autumn.

“Colleges need to understand that delivering top class education is reliant on looking after your staff and ensuring they are paid fairly.

“The employers who engage with us on pay and conditions will receive a positive hearing, but those who refuse should not be surprised at the determination of staff to take action.

“Pay in further education is a problem, and it is time for colleges and the AoC to get serious and do something about it.”



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