Striking staff at Abingdon and Witney College have been given a boost ahead of their two-day walkout over pay next week as local MP Layla Moran has given them her full support in their fight for fairer pay.
College staff will be on picket lines outside both the Abingdon and Witney campuses from 8am on Tuesday and Wednesday next week (29 and 30 January) days. The dispute centres on the failure of colleges to make a decent pay offer to staff who have seen their pay decline by 25% in the past decade.
The MP for Oxford West and Abingdon said that it was “outrageous” that UCU members felt they “had no option but to strike” and that as a former teacher she knew it was not a decision any of them would have taken lightly.
The pay gap between schoolteachers and teachers in colleges is now £7,000. Moran, who is also the Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson on education, said the government should allocate funding to ensure colleges can give staff a pay rise comparable to teachers in schools, and reverse the chronic underfunding of colleges.
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran said: ‘It is outrageous that hardworking staff at Abingdon and Witney College have been left feeling they have no option but to strike in response to pay cuts. As a former teacher myself, I know this is not a decision which will have been taken lightly.
‘This Government has decimated college funding, leaving staff pay trailing way behind their counterparts in schools. This gap grew even further when the Government allocated funding for a modest pay-rise for school teachers last year - but failed to give any extra funding to colleges so they could offer the same to their staff.
‘As a matter of urgency, the Government should allocate equivalent funding to colleges so they can give their staff a fair pay rise, comparable to what is being offered to school teachers.
‘But this is only one of the steps we need to take, to reverse the chronic under-funding of further education. Colleges provide vital education and training opportunities and the Conservatives are unforgivably letting down both staff and students by neglecting this sector.’
In the recent ballot at Abingdon and Witney College, over two-thirds (71%) of UCU members who voted backed strike action. UCU members at 16 English colleges* will be walking next week as part of a second wave of strikes after staff at six colleges took action in November.
UCU regional official Nick Varney said: ‘The support from Layla Moran is a real boost for UCU members ahead of strike action next week. She is right to say that this decision has not been taken lightly but staff feel like they have no other option.
‘They have had enough of seeing their workloads increase while their pay is eroded. The college needs to prioritise its staff and come back to us with a meaningful offer. If it refuses then further strikes are on the cards.’
* Abingdon and Witney College
Bridgwater and Taunton College
City of Wolverhampton College
East Sussex College
Hugh Baird College
Kendal College ^
Leicester College ^
New College Swindon
West Thames College
^ In order to maximise the impact of their action, Leicester College UCU members will be taking action on Tuesday 29 and Thursday 31 January and members at Kendal College will be taking action on 29 January and 12 February.