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Strikes on next week at three West Midlands colleges

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will be on strike next week at Coventry College, City of Wolverhampton College and the Warwickshire College Group in a dispute over pay.

UCU members will walk out on the following days:

City of Wolverhampton College – Monday 8, Tuesday 9 and Wednesday 10 April

Warwickshire College Group – Monday 8 and Tuesday 9 April

Coventry College – Tuesday 9, Wednesday 10 April and Thursday 11 April

UCU members will be on picket lines outside all three sites at City of Wolverhampton College at Paget Road, Wellington Road, and Bilston Street from 8am on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday they will all head for the Metro One site on Bilston Street for a mass protest.

Striking staff at Coventry College will be on picket lines outside both the Swanswell Street site and the Henley Campus from 8am on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Tuesday UCU members from Coventry College and Warwickshire College Group will take their protest to Coventry city centre. They will leave the Lady Godiva statue at 12 noon for march through the city before reconvening at the statue for a rally at 1pm.

At Warwickshire College Group, UCU members will be striking across the group’s seven sites and there will be picket lines outside Evesham College, Royal Leamington Spa College, Rugby College, Pershore College and Warwick Trident College from 8am on both Monday and Tuesday. On Tuesday they will head to the lunchtime protest in Coventry.

The dispute centres on the failure of college bosses to make a decent pay offer to staff or address key issues such as excessive workloads. The pay gap between teachers in colleges and schools currently stands at £7,000 as staff have seen the value of their pay decline by 25% over the last decade.

The strikes are part of a series of walkouts across England which started with UCU members at six colleges taking action in November. That was followed by staff at 12 colleges, including City of Wolverhampton, walking out at the end of January and then UCU members at five colleges on strike last month.

UCU said that while strike action was always a last resort for staff, colleges who wished to avoid disruption should follow the likes of Capital City College Group and Hugh Baird College who recently agreed deals for their staff to address low pay and improve conditions.

The union said it was particularly frustrated that City of Wolverhampton College had refused an offer from UCU to meet through arbitration experts Acas to try and avoid strike actions.

UCU regional official Anne O’Sullivan said: ‘Strike action is always a last resort, but if colleges won’t work with us to prioritise staff then we are left with no other choice. We are particularly frustrated that City of Wolverhampton College turned down our offer to meet through expert mediators to try and avoid strike action.

‘Colleges who engage with us on the pay and conditions of their staff will receive a positive hearing, but those who refuse should not be surprised at the anger of their staff. Pay in further education is a problem, and it is time for colleges to get serious and do something about it.’

In the recent strike ballots, 92% of UCU members at Coventry College who voted backed strike action. At City of Wolverhampton College 91%% of those who voted supported strikes and at Warwickshire College Group 76% of those who voted backed strike action.

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