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Unprecedented 'cost-of-living' college strikes continues

5 October 2022

The biggest ever series of college strikes continues across England today as staff walk out over low pay amid the cost of living crisis.

Staff at 23 colleges are striking for two consecutive days this week and next, and are set to strike again from Tuesday 18 October unless suitable pay offers are made.

The full dates of strike action are:

  • Thursday 6 and Friday 7 October (2 days)
  • Monday 10 and Tuesday 11 October (2 days)
  • Tuesday 18, Wednesday 19 and Thursday 20 October (3 days)

Staff will be picketing the entrances of all colleges on each morning of strike action.

Staff at Barnet & Southgate, Burnley, Liverpool, Manchester, Oldham and Sparsholt colleges are also striking this month over low pay, but on different dates. Most colleges also saw strike action last week.

UCU is demanding employers make a pay offer that reflects the soaring cost of living. Since 2009 pay in further education has fallen behind inflation by 35% and the pay gap between school and college teachers stands at around £9k. Unqualified college teachers earn as little as £21k whilst qualified teachers earn as little as £26k.

In June, employer representative the Association of Colleges made a pay recommendation of just 2.5%. RPI inflation is now at 12.3%. Employers have had two months since UCU's ballot result to make meaningful pay offers that reflect rising inflation levels. So far UCU has called off strike action at two colleges after receiving pay offers worth 8% for lowest paid staff and 5% for most college lecturers.

This summer UCU produced a report that shows the vast majority of college staff are financially insecure, impacting the mental health of more than eight in 10 with many being forced to skip meals and restrict hot water use to save money.  Seven in 10 said they will leave the sector unless pay and working conditions improve.

The Department for Education has announced £1.6bn in extra funding for further education and UCU estimates that colleges already have an additional £400m that is available to spend on staff compared with 2019-20.

UCU is also balloting staff at 150 universities including over low pay.          

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'This strike action is entirely the fault of college bosses who would rather see disruption hit colleges than give their own staff a fair pay deal. It is a disgrace.

'College staff are the beating heart of education and transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of students every year. Yet their pay has fallen behind inflation by 35% over the last twelve years and now many are using food banks. It is frankly an insult for employer body the Association of Colleges to recommend a pay offer of just 2.5%.

'Where we receive meaningful offers from employers we are willing to negotiate. But first college principals need to make serious pay offers that address the cost of living crisis.'

Last updated: 6 October 2022