Strike ballot fails to meet turnout threshold in half of colleges

UCU members at 32 colleges are, however, set to strike

UCU members at 32 colleges are, however, set to strike

Staff at 32 colleges have voted to strike over low pay – but half of those balloted for national action failed to meet the turnout threshold.

The University and College Union (UCU) today called on college chiefs to negotiate “realistic” deals where workers have voted to down tools, warning that strikes could come as soon as November.

UCU balloted 89 colleges in total, but the 50 per cent turnout threshold required by law was only achieved in 32 colleges. Members at 13 colleges voted to settle their disputes after receiving pay offers of up to 8.5 per cent, but 43 colleges failed to hit the 50 per cent threshold.

Staff at another, North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College, received a pay offer shortly after the ballot launched which paused their vote.

The union described the 50 per cent threshold as “anti-trade union” but refused to release the votes and turnouts for each college. UCU did however say that 90 per cent of the staff who did vote said they would back strike action.

UCU is demanding a pay offer in excess of RPI inflation, a national workload agreement, and a commitment to binding national pay negotiations. The ballot was launched on September 5 and closed yesterday. 

Two weeks after the ballot launched the Association of Colleges (AoC) recommended its members offer staff pay rises of 6.5 per cent, in line with what is being offered to school teachers.

AoC chief executive David Hughes called on staff to “put down their ballot papers” after the recommendation was made.

From left Jo Grady and David Hughes

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Our members have emphatically voted to strike over the low pay and high workloads that plague further education. Good quality education cannot be built upon the backs of staff who cannot afford to heat and eat.

“The 6.5 per cent pay recommendation by the AoC is a good start but we fear many employers will simply ignore it as they’ve done in the past. Where employers can pay more, they should, the money is there. 

“If college bosses want to avoid disruption, they need to offer realistic pay awards, address workloads, and make a commitment to binding national bargaining.”

Hughes said he was “disappointed” to see UCU move ahead with the ballot “after we made what UCU itself has described as a good start in putting college pay back where it should be.

“This year, after over a decade of government funding cuts, our campaigning helped secure extra funding for colleges to help match the pay award in schools. That money is welcome and allowed us to make a strong offer in response to UCU’s pay claim, but the unions know that, frustratingly, not every college will be able to offer 6.5 per cent because of the way the funding was distributed.”

Hughes added that the low number of colleges where the “crucial” threshold for pursuing strike action was reached shows that “most college staff agree that the settlement we recommended is reasonable”.

UCU’s further education committee will meet in the next two weeks to decide next steps.

Colleges that beat the 50% threshold and voted yes to strike: 

  1. Abingdon & Witney College,  
  2. Bath College,  
  3. Bolton College,  
  4. Bournemouth & Poole College,  
  5. Brockenhurst College,  
  6. Burton and South Derbyshire College,  
  7. Calderdale College,  
  8. Cambridge Regional College,  
  9. Capital City College Group,  
  10. City of Bristol College,  
  11. City of Wolverhampton College,  
  12. Colchester Institute,  
  13. Craven College,  
  14. Croydon College,  
  15. Farnborough College of Technology,  
  16. Furness College,  
  17. Gloucestershire College,  
  18. Hugh Baird College,  
  19. Isle of Wight College,  
  20. Loughborough College,  
  21. Myerscough College,  
  22. New College Swindon,  
  23. Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group,  
  24. Nottingham College,  
  25. Petroc,  
  26. Runshaw College,  
  27. South Thames College,  
  28. The City of Liverpool College,  
  29. The Heart of Yorkshire Education Group,  
  30. Warrington & Vale Royal College,  
  31. Weymouth College,  
  32. Windsor Forest Colleges Group, 

Colleges where UCU has now settled its dispute: 

  1. Bishop Auckland College 
  2. Bury College 
  3. Cheshire College  
  4. Dudley College 
  5. Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College 
  6. East Durham College 
  7. Exeter College 
  8. Leeds College of Building 
  9. Middlesborough College 
  10. City College Plymouth
  11. Stoke on Trent College 
  12. Wiltshire College 
  13. Yeovil College 

Colleges that failed to hit the 50% turnout threshold: 

  1. Activate Learning 
  2. Askham Bryan College 
  3. Blackburn College 
  4. Blackpool and The Fylde College 
  5. Bridgwater and Taunton College 
  6. Brooklands College 
  7. Burnley College 
  8. Chelmsford College 
  9. Chesterfield College 
  10. Chichester College Group 
  11. College of West Anglia 
  12. Darlington College 
  13. Derby College 
  14. DN Colleges Group 
  15. East Coast College 
  16. East Sussex College Group 
  17. Heart of Worcestershire College 
  18. Lambeth College 
  19. Leicester College 
  20. Mid Kent College 
  21. Milton Keynes College 
  22. Nelson & Colne College Group 
  23. New City College 
  24. New College Durham 
  25. Northampton College 
  26. Oaklands College 
  27. Orbital South Colleges 
  28. Plumpton College 
  29. SK College Group 
  30. South & City College Birmingham 
  31. South Devon College 
  32. South Essex College 
  33. South Gloucestershire & Stroud College 
  34. Sparsholt College 
  35. Strode College 
  36. Suffolk New College 
  37. Tameside College of Technology 
  38. TEC Partnership 
  39. Truro & Penwith College 
  40. Walsall College 
  41. Weston College 
  42. Wigan and Leigh College 
  43. Wirral Metropolitan College 

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