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Resounding 'yes' for strike action at 'IOU' colleges

12 January 2009

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Eleven colleges across the country may be brought to a standstill over their failure to award staff a pay deal agreed four years ago.

UCU announced today that its members working in the eleven colleges have voted a resounding 'yes' for industrial action. The ballot saw 70% of respondents vote in favour of strike action, which is scheduled for the end of January or early February.

All eleven colleges have steadfastly refused to honour a ground-breaking national pay deal for teachers in further education, which was thrashed out in 2004*. That deal meant a mid-ranking lecturer would now earn £4,511 more per annum.

The colleges balloted were: Nelson and Colne, Croydon, Greenwich, North West London, Dearne Valley, Doncaster, Rotherham, Evesham, Sandwell, Sussex Downs, and Askham Bryan.

In total, 90 of England's 376 colleges have not awarded the deal and having focused on eleven to date, UCU now intends to target further colleges. The union said the failure by those colleges to implement the national agreement ranks as one of the longest 'IOUs' from management to staff in the history of industrial relations.

'Colleges have to understand that they will no longer be allowed to pay staff significantly below agreed national rates.'
Barry Lovejoy, UCU head of FE

UCU head of further education, Barry Lovejoy, said: 'This vote clearly reflects the strength of feeling among our members, whose patience has finally run out after waiting four years for a promised pay rise.

'UCU has been very reasonable by making it clear that we are willing to take into account local circumstances and agree ways to implement the plans. Flexible agreements have been made on the pay scales at a host of other colleges with serious financial difficulties.

'Nobody involved with any of the colleges wants to see industrial disruption and hope it can still be avoided. The colleges just need to show their commitment to negotiating the pay rises. Other colleges that have failed to pay up should be warned that this is just the beginning. Colleges have to understand that they will no longer be allowed to pay staff significantly below agreed national rates.'

Notes

* In 2003-4, a two-year national agreement was drawn up that heralded pay parity for college lecturers with schoolteachers. Thousands of further education lecturers had been unable to reach the higher pay levels enjoyed by schoolteachers, 50% of whom get extra allowances worth between £2,364 and £11,557 per annum on top of their basic earnings. The deal introduced shorter new scales that provided higher salaries for new lecturers and faster progression to the top points.

68.9% of respondents voted 'yes' to strike action.
86.4% of respondents voted 'yes' to action short of a strike.

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