From education to employment

Unprecedented ‘cost-of-living’ college strikes enter fourth week

  • Tens of colleges hit with strike action this week
  • 2.5% pay recommendation from employer body labelled an ‘insult’ by UCU
  • Report shows thousands of college staff are skipping meals, restricting energy use and considering leaving the sector altogether

Strike action continues tomorrow across England as staff walk out over low pay amid the cost of living crisis, confirmed the University and College Union (UCU) today (Monday).

Staff at 22 colleges are striking for three consecutive days. In every college outside of London, the strikes will be on the following days:

·Tuesday 18 October

·Wednesday 19 October

·Thursday 20 October

In London some colleges began their three day strike this morning Staff will be picketing the entrances of all colleges every day of the strike action

This is the biggest wave of industrial action further education has ever seen. Overall, staff will walk out for up to 10 days in total in an action that started four weeks ago.

UCU is demanding employers make a pay offer that reflects the soaring cost of living. Since 2009 pay in further education has fallen behind inflation by 35% and the pay gap between school and college teachers stands at around £9k. Unqualified college teachers earn as little as £21k whilst qualified teachers earn as little as £26k.

In June, employer representative the Association of Colleges made a pay recommendation of just 2.5%. RPI inflation is now at 12.3%. So far UCU has called off strike action at a number of colleges, including at Croydon College, after receiving improved pay offers.

This summer, UCU produced a report that shows the vast majority of college staff are financially insecure, impacting the mental health of more than eight in 10 with many being forced to skip meals and restrict hot water use to save money.  Seven in 10 said they will leave the sector unless pay and working conditions improve.

The Department for Education has announced £1.6bn in extra funding for further education and UCU estimates that colleges already have an additional £400m that is available to spend on staff compared with 2019-20.

UCU is also balloting staff at 150 universities including over low pay.          

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

‘This strike action could have ended weeks ago, but these colleges are refusing to give their own staff a fair pay deal. Principals are instead choosing to push their employees into poverty amid the cost of living crisis.

‘College staff are the beating heart of education and transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of students every year. Yet their pay has fallen behind inflation by 35% over the last twelve years and now many are using food banks. It is frankly an insult for employer body the Association of Colleges to recommend a pay offer of just 2.5%.

‘We are always willing to negotiate. But first college principals need to make serious pay offers that will help staff survive the coming months.’


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