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Taking action in higher education

Northumberland College staff vote for strike action in jobs row

1 April 2010 | last updated: 11 December 2015

Members of UCU at Northumberland College have voted overwhelmingly in favour of both strike action and action short of a strike in their fight to save jobs.

Over 90% of members (90.24%) who voted supported strike action and a massive 99.19% agreed to action short of a strike. The union said the high turnout – 68.33% - was indicative of the strength of feeling among UCU members across the country over savage funding cuts and damaging job losses.
Northumberland College will be making 67 academic staff redundant and massively increasing the working hours of those who remain, resulting in a pay cut for all lecturing staff of up to £10,000. The staff who survive the jobs cull will see their teaching hours increase from 825 to 900, with a huge rise in preparation time and marking as well. There will also be reduction in how much staff can earn with the top grade for lecturers dropping to £27,000.
The union said its members at the college will be deciding exactly what form the industrial action will take over the next few days. A day's strike looks inevitable and staff could also start only working their contracted hours and refuse to cover for colleagues.
The union has described the college's plans as a real smack in the face for education in the region. Northumberland College is the only general further education college in the county and provides education to students from Berwick to Hexham, including at the Kirkley Hall Agricultural College in Ponteland.
Iain Owens, UCU regional official, said: 'UCU members at Northumberland College have today made it quite clear that they will be fighting the college's ridiculous plans. We are understandably furious at plans to sack staff and reinstate some of them on worse pay and conditions.
'The college has shown absolute contempt for its staff, its students and the local community. There was no consultation with the union on the plans. Rest assured that we will be fighting the decision all the way as we have not given up on the college's students or its reputation yet.'