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Official UCU Picket

Staff strike at Richmond upon Thames College over Fire & Rehire

23 May 2022

Staff down tools today (Monday) after management confirmed that they intend to issue notices to sack every teacher at the college and force them to reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions if they want to stay.

The strike will continue every day this week until Friday 27 May. The full strike days are:

  • Monday 23 May
  • Tuesday 24 May
  • Wednesday 25 May
  • Thursday 26 May
  • Friday 27 May

Staff will be picketing the college from 7am to 11am everyday of strike action. 

There will also be rally from 11am on Monday 23 May. Speakers will include Barry Gardiner MP, UCU general secretary Jo Grady, UCU president Janet Farrar, Richmond upon Thames College strikers, and UCU regional official Adam Lincoln.

Earlier this month an overwhelming 97% of UCU members who voted in the industrial ballots said yes to strike action. The turnout was 88%, smashing the Tory anti trade union legal threshold of 50%.

The five days of strike action will be immediately followed by staff working strictly to contract, after 100% of those who voted said yes to action short of strike. The action short of strike could also be escalated to include refusing to cover for colleagues, refusing to use personal IT facilities including Wi-Fi and broadband, refusing to reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, and a boycott of assessments.

The college wants to sack all 127 members of its teaching staff and make them reapply for their jobs on new contracts that would see them lose 10 days holiday. Management began the deeply controversial process, widely known as 'fire and rehire', without any prior engagement or consultation with staff. The college claims that 'trust', 'integrity' and 'excellence' are the values that 'underpin everything' it does.

After a meeting with UCU on Tuesday 10 May, the employer confirmed that it would not enter further negotiations and would begin conducting 1-2-1 meetings with staff ahead of delivering dismissal notices. The employer continues to refuse to recommence negotiations to resolve the dispute.

Holiday entitlement is one of the few perks in a college that pays qualified teachers as little as £26k. Teachers with over 13 years' experience only earn around £37k. This is lower than at most colleges in the surrounding area and teachers at local schools can earn up to £51k.

Staff at the college have told UCU that the institution is in a state of chaos and that they feel broken by how they have been treated with many now looking to quit.

UCU regional official Adam Lincoln, said: 'Today's strike shows that staff will not allow management to fire them and rehire them on worse terms. Fire and rehire is a sickening tactic used by some of the UK's worst employers and Richmond upon Thames College's management needs to treat staff with the dignity they deserve.

'The 127 teachers who now face a battle to save their jobs have dedicated themselves to supporting their students, not least during the pandemic. The fact that management are trying to slash 10 days from their holiday entitlement is a mark of shame for the entire college, and one which will prompt fury amongst students and the local community.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady, said: "The management team at Richmond upon Thames are effectively putting a gun to the head of its own staff. It is deplorable behaviour and it will be met with the full force of our union. This strike action shows staff are going absolutely nowhere and it is in the interests of all that the so-called leaders of the college think again and immediately remove the threat on people's jobs.'

Last updated: 23 May 2022