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Colleges are facing potential disruption in the new year after the University and College Union (UCU) accused employers of a “breach of faith” over pay and said it would consult members over strike action.

The union met with employers today (Monday) and said a 1% pay offer was “derisory”, after the employer body had previously acknowledged that staff deserved more and campaigned alongside the UCU in calling for additional funding.

The government announced an extra £400million of funding for colleges in August and UCU said it was time for colleges to prioritise staff. The union said the 1% offer would only widen the pay gap - currently £7,000 a year - between school and college teachers after school teachers were awarded a 3.5% rise.

The union said staff couldn’t afford to wait any longer for a decent pay rise, with many already struggling to pay rent and forced to use food banks. UCU said other colleges had worked with the union to deliver better deals for staff prior to the extra funding, including Capital City College Group who agreed a 5% pay deal for staff and Lambeth College who agreed a deal worth over 3% in pay with improvements to holidays, sick pay and teaching hours. A deal at Hugh Baird College earlier in the year saw staff receive a pay rise of up to 6% plus five days’ extra annual leave.

UCU head of further education Andrew Harden said: ‘Colleges have repeatedly used a lack of government funding as an excuse to hold down staff pay, whilst acknowledging they deserve more. To offer 1% after joint campaigning and the recent funding announcement is a breach of faith that will rightly anger staff and leaves us with no option but to consult over strike action.  It sends a clear signal to staff that they are not being prioritised which threatens key relationships at precisely the time when the sector needs to work together.

‘Staff have borne the brunt of cuts in recent years and closing the £7,000 pay gap between school and college teachers must be a priority. The time to act on pay is now. Staff struggling to pay rent and using food banks can’t afford to wait any longer. Plenty of colleges have demonstrated how to deliver better deals for staff even before the extra funding was announced, so this derisory 1% offer is simply inexcusable.’

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