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Boost for City of Wolverhampton College strikers as local MP offers full support

25 January 2019

UCU members at City of Wolverhampton College have been given a boost ahead of their two-day walkout over pay next week as local MP Eleanor Smith has given them her full support in their fight for fairer pay.

UCU members will be on picket lines from 8am outside the entrances to the college's campuses on Paget Road, Wellington Road, and Bilston Street. The dispute centres on the failure of colleges to make a decent pay offer to staff who have seen the value of their pay decline by 25% in the past decade. 

The Wolverhampton South West MP said the government should allocate funding to colleges so "they can give their staff a fair pay rise". She said that as a former trade union president she knew that the decision to take strike action is not one that staff would have taken lightly.

The pay gap between schoolteachers and teachers in colleges is now £7,000. Smith said that the government had "decimated college funding, leaving staff pay trailing way behind their counterparts in schools". In the recent ballot, four-fifths (78%) of UCU members who voted backed strike action.

UCU members at 15 English colleges* are walking out as part of a second wave of strikes after staff at six colleges took action in November. The pay gap between teachers in colleges and schools currently stands at £7,000 and around two-thirds of college heads have said pay is a major obstacle in attracting staff.

Eleanor Smith MP said: 'I fully support the hardworking staff at Wolverhampton College, and all the UCU members at colleges across the country, who are taking strike action next week. As a former president of Unison, I know decisions to strike aren't taken lightly, but this government has decimated college funding, leaving staff pay trailing way behind their counterparts in schools.

'The government should allocate equivalent funding to colleges so they can give their staff a fair pay rise, comparable to what is being offered to school teachers. The pay issue is indicative of the chronic underfunding of further education colleges. This needs to be reversed.

'Why does this government think 17 and 18-year-olds in colleges are worth so much less than younger pupils or university students? Colleges provide vital education and training opportunities. The Conservatives are unforgivably letting down both staff and students by neglecting this sector.'

UCU regional official Anne O'Sullivan said: 'The support from Eleanor Smith is a real boost for UCU members ahead of strike action next week. She is right to say that this decision has not been taken lightly, but staff feel like they have no other option.

'They have had enough of increasing workloads while their pay is eroded. The college has to prioritise its staff and come back to us with a meaningful offer. If it refuses then further strikes are on the cards.'

The union said further strikes were planned if the college refused to make a decent offer and that it could not hide behind government cuts if it wanted to avoid further disruption. UCU said the college should follow the lead of the Capital City College Group which recently agreed a 5% pay deal for its 1,700 staff.

* Abingdon and Witney College
Bath College
Bradford College
Bridgwater and Taunton College
City of Wolverhampton College
Croydon College
East Sussex College
Harlow College
Hugh Baird College
Kendal College ^
Lambeth College
Leicester College ^
New College Swindon
Petroc
West Thames College

^ In order to maximise the impact of their action, Leicester College UCU members will be taking action on Tuesday 29 and Thursday 31 January and members at Kendal College will be taking action on 29 January and 12 February.

UCU members at Coventry College were also due to be out on 29 and 30 January, but the strikes have been suspended to allow for further talks aimed at resolving the dispute.

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