Strikes at more London colleges could be the cards as ballots have opened at another two colleges.
The ballots of members of the University and College Union (UCU) at Tower Hamlets College and Redbridge College opened on Monday (11 February) and will close on Friday 1 March. If staff back strike action, they will join colleagues at other colleges in a third wave of strikes over pay and conditions in March.
Previously, UCU members at six colleges took action in November and members at 13 colleges walked out last month, including at Croydon, Lambeth and West Thames colleges in London. The dispute centres on the failure of colleges to make a decent pay offer to staff who have seen the value of their pay decline by 25% over the last decade.
The pay gap between teachers in colleges and schools currently stands at £7,000. UCU said low pay was bad for staff, students and colleges, while around two-thirds of college heads said pay is a major obstacle for them when it comes to attracting staff.
The union said colleges that wanted to avoid disruption needed to work with it to resolve the dispute. The Capital City College Group recently agreed a 5% pay deal with the union for its 1,700 staff in London. While Hugh Baird College and New College Swindon recently agreed eleventh hour packages that saw UCU members suspend strike action.
UCU head of policy Matt Waddup said: ‘Where colleges are working with us to put staff first disruption can be avoided. Colleges need to understand they cannot hide behind government cuts to shirk responsibility for their staff.
‘Staff have had enough of the excuses for poor pay and conditions. UCU will continue to campaign for more investment from the government but, whether this is forthcoming or not, strikes will continue until colleges show that they are prioritising their staff.’