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Taking action in higher education

Local politicians slam Nottingham College's handling of lecturers' strikes

18 October 2019 | last updated: 25 October 2019

Councillors from across Nottingham have criticised Nottingham College for its handling of a bitter dispute with staff over the imposition of new contracts.

Members of UCU have already walked out for 16 days of strikes this year, with 14 more planned for next month.

In a highly critical letter*, 32 local politicians said the dispute over new contracts at the college risked putting community cohesion at risk.  The councillors said they found it "quite incredulous" that the college had allowed a situation to develop where staff are considering more walkouts.

Calling for an urgent meeting with the college board, the councillors said they had been made aware of a "staggering lack of trust" by staff in the college, which they said could only have a "deleterious impact" on how the college functioned.

UCU welcomed the councillors' support and said the college's intransigence was behind the unprecedented number of strike days. The union added that it had received support from many quarters during the dispute, including from students and that over 4,200 people had signed a petition calling for staff to be given the contracts they deserve. Last week staff delivered a unanimous vote of no confidence in the college's CEO and board.

The dispute centres on the college's plans to impose contracts which would leave some staff more than £1,000 a year worse off, as well as reducing holiday entitlement and removing protections against work overload. Staff at the college have not received a pay rise since 2010.

UCU head of further education Andrew Harden said: 'Local councillors are right to ask serious questions about how the college is being run. They are right to say that the college is putting opportunities for local people at risk.

'This is not a dispute caused by staff, it was triggered by the college threatening to sack lecturers unless they signed new contracts that cut pay, holidays and sickness protection.'

The next wave of strikes will consist of three and four-day walkouts over a four-week period covering most of November. The full strike dates for the second wave are:

  • Tuesday 5, Wednesday 6 and Thursday 7 November

  • Monday 11, Tuesday 12, Wednesday 13 and Thursday 14 November

  • Monday 18, Wednesday 20 and Friday 22

  • Monday 25, Tuesday 26, Thursday 28 and Friday 29 November.


* The full letter:

We are 32 city councillors representing communities across Nottingham. We are writing to you about the dispute at Nottingham College.

The fact that the city now has only one further education college places a huge responsibility for stewardship on the college's board.

The success or otherwise of our sole further education college will have implications not only for the city's ambitions for local economic sustainability and for meeting skills needs, but also for meeting other related agendas, including community cohesion, citizenship, health and well-being, and for nurturing a culture of lifelong learning.

The dispute is putting all that at risk.

We would like the board to meet with a group of council representatives as a matter of urgency to discuss our concerns directly.

From our understanding of the local further education scene, we are aware that further education teachers in Nottingham have had no pay rise of any sort in one college for ten years, and in the other no cost of living or living pay rise for a similar length of time. We are mindful of the recent history of further education in Nottingham, including the impact of the Bassi leadership on New College Nottingham and its staff and the uncertainty and disruption of merger.

We know that further education teachers have tried to deliver a good level of education to their students despite local and national uncertainty, increased workloads and cuts in funding. We are aware that new funding coming into the sector from next year provides the college with some welcome relief, albeit not making good the level of funding cuts the sector has had to endure.

We are conscious of the tensions around workload, pay cuts and what seems from our constituent's comments to us a staggering lack of trust by staff of all kinds in the college leadership - including its board - which can only have a deleterious impact on the functioning of the college.

The above provides some context to where we are now, but it is where are now that needs addressing with appropriate urgency. We are quite incredulous that the board has allowed a situation to develop where teaching staff are considering four further weeks of industrial action. There should be no further interruption to the learning available to the people of Nottingham.

Local authorities have few formal powers in regard to further education. However, councillors do have a political responsibility to ensure that young people and adult returners are well-served by a thriving educational provision.

Nottingham has some of the highest levels of deprivation in the UK. Further education overwhelmingly provides for working class communities.

By allowing the dispute to continue, the college board has failed to exercise the accountable stewardship it owes to the city. We are mindful that the college has now engaged the services of independent conciliation specialists Acas. Whatever the outcome of conciliation, we believe that our concerns with the recent direction the board is responsible for should be addressed. We hope to hear from you soon with assurances  in relation to our comments and a response to our request for a meeting

Cllr Steve Battlemuch
Cllr Lauren O'Grady
Cllr AJ Matsiko
Cllr Rebecca Langton
Cllr Toby Neal
Cllr Phil Jackson
Cllr Nick Raine
Cllr Chantal Lee
Cllr Pavlos Kotsonis
Cllr Audrey Dinnall
Cllr Maria Joannou
Cllr Adele Williams
Cllr Cate Woodward
Cllr Zafran Khan
Cllr Mohammed Saghir
Cllr Azad Choudry
Cllr Sally Longford
Cllr Audra Wynter
Cllr Jawaid Khalil
Cllr Salma Mumtaz
Cllr Sajid Mohammed
Cllr Angela Kandola
Cllr Wendy Smith
Cllr Cheryl Barnard
Cllr Jay Hayes
Cllr Shuguftah Quddoos
Cllr Ethan Radford
Cllr Dave Liversidge
Cllr Sam Webster
Cllr Sam Gardiner
Cllr Georgia Power
Cllr Dave Trimble

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