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Calls for 10% pay increase for college staff as members signal appetite for strike action

7 April 2022

UCU has submitted a formal pay claim for 2022-23 to employer body the Association of Colleges (AoC), as part of the fight to improve pay and conditions for staff across the sector.

The claim, submitted jointly with other unions representing further education staff in England (GMB, Unison, NEU and Unite), calls for a 10% pay increase on all points with a minimum uplift of £2000, all colleges to become accredited Foundation Living wage employers and for significant movement towards agreements on workload in colleges. Negotiations with AoC are expected to formally commence in May. 

The claim comes as further education staff across England voted in their thousands to consider the next steps towards industrial action in defence of the claim.  Nine in ten members (91%) that took part in the recent indicative ballot voted to consider strike action and many branches may soon move towards statutory postal ballots for industrial action - the last step needed before strikes can take place.  

Since 2009 pay in further education has fallen behind inflation by more than 35%. The gap between school and college teachers stands at around £9000 and the AoC themselves recently described the current staffing crisis as the worst in decades. 

In 2021, the Westminster government announced an 8.4% increase in funding targeted at those in England aged 16-17 years old, the biggest rise in funding for further education in more than decade and coming after £240m in additional funding announced in 2018. In their claim, the union says 'there can be no more excuses on pay' and warns that pay settlement are 'significantly higher across the private sector as competition for staff increases'. 

The unions have also called for a number of improvements on workload, including an agreed national policy on guided learning hours, more administration staff, agreed class size recommendations as well as workload and wellbeing protocols such as working from home agreements and agreed boundaries for contacting staff by email or phone. 

The ballot and pay claim are part of the union's Respect FE campaign that aims to improve the pay and conditions of staff in further education. The union has launched a petition urging the AoC and colleges to sign up to a charter for professional respect in further education. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said 'As the cost of living crisis bites hard, we hope this year's pay talks can be concluded quickly and satisfactorily. Staff will rightly expect an offer that makes up for more than a decade of real-term cuts and goes some way to addressing the unacceptable pay gap between staff in colleges and schools. A proper pay rise of 10% can also support recruitment and retention of staff in the sector, going some way to easing the vacancy and workload crises. 

'Further education staff are highly skilled and dedicated professionals and are key to any ambitions to upskill communities. But the result of our indicative ballot on strike action shows that they will not take further attacks on their working conditions lying down. This must act as a wakeup call for employers if they do not want to see disruption in colleges across England. I would encourage employers to not only take seriously this year's pay claim but to also sign up to UCU's charter for professional respect'. 

Last updated: 21 July 2022