Further education staff stage first national strike

Sixty
thousand further education college staff are to strike on November 5 over pay.

The
strike by the staff – which includes support staff, lecturers cleaners and
technicians – represents the first-ever national strike in FE colleges.

Over
250 colleges and four million students will be affected with many colleges
being closed for the day.

Trade
union Unison claims pay in FE colleges has fallen in comparison to the rest of
the public and private sector since colleges became incorporated in 1993.

In
a ballot earlier this month, two-thirds of the union’s members voted to take
action.

Unison
general secretary Dave Prentis said: "I’m glad our members voted yes, but
I am also incredibly angry that the employers have let it come to this.

"They
seem happy to let pay in this sector spiral downwards leading to even greater
problems with recruitment and retention.

“Two-thirds
of our FE members earn less than £13,000 a year. The employers offer is worth
just 13p an hour for those on £10,500.

A
Mori poll for Unison shows that 46 per cent of its members working in colleges
are actively seeking new jobs.

The
union’s members have rejected the employers’ offer of 2.3 per cent, with Unison
seeking a pay increase to bring the minimum starting salary to £11,000 to allow
staff in FE colleges to catch up with staff in other parts of the public
sector.

“Staff
are leaving colleges in droves," Prentis said. "Who is going to train
and support these new students?

"Colleges
have been underfunded for years and staff have watched their pay fall in
comparison with schools staff and the rest of the public sector.

“Until
it addresses low pay, the Government cannot meet its existing targets and
certainly can’t expect any more of FE staff."

By Quentin Reade

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