From education to employment

Two-day strike at Tower Hamlets college in row over pay

Staff at the Tower Hamlets branch of New City College will begin a 48-hour walkout tomorrow (3 December) as part of an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will be on picket lines from 8am at New City College’s main entrances on Poplar High Street and Arbour Square.

The dispute centres on the college’s failure to make a decent pay offer to staff who have seen the value of their pay decline by 25% in the past decade. The pay gap between teachers in colleges and schools currently stands at over £7,000, despite the fact that around two-thirds of college heads say pay is a major obstacle in attracting staff.

UCU members have already taken six days of strike action this year as part of the dispute, with a three-day walkout in May followed by two days of strike action in June and a day of action during the student enrolment period in September. Members were balloted for further strike action in September and nine in ten of those who voted (90%) backed more walkouts.

The union said the continued strong support for strikes showed staff were sick and tired of the college’s attempts to use government cuts as an excuse for holding down pay. It urged the college to follow the lead of the Capital City College Group which recently agreed a 5% pay deal for its 1,700 staff in London.

UCU members at the college are calling for action to tackle rising workloads, as well as improvements to contracts and formal recognition for trade unions. The union said the college needed to recognise the depth of anger felt by staff and get back to the negotiating table. It warned further action could follow if the college failed to bring forward a better offer.

UCU regional support official Caroline Lake said: ‘Strike action is never taken lightly but staff at the college are sick and tired of hearing the same old excuses. The college cannot continue to use government cuts as a reason to hold down staff pay when other institutions are finding ways to fairly reward their staff.

‘The continued strong support for strike action shows the depth of anger members feel at how they are being treated. It’s time for the college to come back to the negotiating table with a better offer that addresses the concerns of staff, otherwise further action could be on the cards.’

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