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Strike to hit all further education colleges in Northern Ireland

11 September 2023

Staff at all six further education colleges across Northern Ireland will strike for five days next week and continuously for the next three months in a long-running dispute over pay and working conditions.

UCU said it has been forced to take action after a decade of their members being subject to pay freeze, followed by pay restraint, which has seen lecturer pay awards limited to between 1 % and 2% per year. 

NI lecturer wages are several thousands of pounds per annum behind schoolteachers and university lecturers who, are themselves fighting for improvements in their pay. Not only do lecturer salaries compare unfavourably to elsewhere in the education system, but the NI pay rates are beneath what lecturers are paid in Scotland, Wales and many parts of England. 

Measured against the retail price index, lecturer pay has declined by over 25% in real terms since 2015. UCU said lecturers cannot be expected to absorb the cost-of-living crisis while money can always be found for the capital builds of campus expansion, and it will not idly standby and allow the pay degradation of NI lecturers to continue. 

The Union has served notice on all six college employers notifying of a rolling programme of strike action. This will start on Monday 18 September for a full week as all course delivery begins. Thereafter, each college will take one day of strike action once every six days for the next three months.  

UCU Northern Ireland Official Katharine Clarke said: "We have been forced into taking this action because neither the employers nor the Department for the Economy have taken reasonable steps to close the education pay gap. Year after year we have seen pay awards for corporate staff prioritised within college budgets that far exceed pay settlements for lecturers. Those engaged in curriculum delivery have been treated as a second-class workforce within the system. UCU's demand is simple, all staff in further education must be fairly rewarded for their work. There will be continuous disruption across the sector until those who hold the purse strings get real and start addressing lecturer pay in a meaningful way."

"Over the period where lecturer pay has declined, we've seen shiny new campuses pop up at most of the colleges. The sector needs to prioritise investment in its people not just its buildings. Bricks and mortar do not deliver curriculum. Lecturer pay is now so unattractive the further education sector is facing the very real prospect of having the best of classrooms but with nobody to teach in them." 

Last updated: 19 September 2023