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Launch Party for New “Super – Union Coincides with New Regional Strike Threat

The great and the good from the FE sector are gathering today in Central London for the launch of the new “super union”, the University and College Union (UCU).

The union is made up of the merger of the University and College Lecturers” Union (NATFHE) and the Association of University Teachers (AUT), and began official operations on the 1st of June. This included the potential resolution of the university lecturers” pay strike as the latest offer has been accepted and put forward to the members. The UCU played a considerable role in consolidating and representing the position of the lecturers, in its” new guise representing more than 120,000 members.

Local Action

The new union will have to have hit the ground running, it would seem, as news has emerged today of a strike action being planned in Lincolnshire. Stamford College staff have decided to go on strike this coming week (specifically on the 15th of June) after being told that wage reductions and even the sack lie in wait if they persist in their resistance to a form of performance related pay that the college are seeking to impose.

The measure being promoted by the college’s management means that staff who fail to complete certain administrative tasks will be denied cost -of ““ living pay rises. Further developments being considered by the management for a system described in a UCU release as “problematic” include placing a burden of proof on the lecturers that the students have completed all files for all work in order to be considered for basic pay increases.

The members of staff were taken by surprise by this proposal and were not consulted on the proposal to extend the scheme. The lecturers claim that this scheme has been inconsistently administered and causes resentment and friction amongst colleagues. Responding to this situation, the UCU members voted for action “short of a strike”; essentially, a form of passive resistance and objection through non ““ compliance with administrative procedures.

The Action

Following the principal’s threat to dock one day’s pay for each day of this action, and the further threat of the sack to any member of staff involved after twelve weeks, the branch have elected to hold a one day walk out. Geoffrey Jennings, the UCU branch secretary at Stamford College, spoke of the concerns of his members and the anger at the threats.

“We understand and fully accept that there is a need to monitor people’s performance at work to ensure that students are getting high-quality education,” he said. “However, our members have serious professional concerns about this approach. When we tried to express those concerns in a constructive way, the college management was not prepared to listen. When, as a result, we said we would not cooperate, the college responded by threatening us with pay docking and eventually the sack.”

The regional support officer for the UCU in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, Angus McLardy, commented: “Stamford College is the first in this part of the country to introduce performance-related pay. And crucially, where it has been introduced elsewhere, lecturers have been denied incremental pay rises rather than basic cost-of-living rises. We believe the college’s response to our members” concerns is out of all proportion and very confrontational. We can”t see how demoralising lecturers like this will improve quality at this college.”

Jethro Marsh

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