Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at Kendal College will be taking strike action on Tuesday 29 January and Tuesday 12 February in their fight for fair pay. In a poll of UCU members which closed just before Christmas, 96% of staff who voted backed strikes.
UCU members at 16 English colleges* will be walking out at the end of the month as part of a second wave of strikes after staff at six colleges took action in November. The dispute centres on the failure of college bosses to make a decent pay offer to staff who have seen the value of their pay decline by 25% over the last decade.
The pay gap between teachers in colleges and schools currently stands at £7,000. UCU said low pay was bad for staff, students and colleges, while around two-thirds of college heads said pay is a major obstacle for them when it comes to attracting staff.
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.
UCU regional official Iain Owens said: “UCU members at Kendal College are being forced to take strike action to secure fair pay. Staff have had enough of increasing workloads while their pay is eroded. The college needs to prioritise its staff and come back to us with a meaningful offer. If it refuses then further strikes are on the cards.”
Principal and CEO of Kendal College Kelvin Nash said: “I am extremely proud of the hard work and dedication that every member of staff gives to Kendal College and that commitment is palpable when you enter the building. Over the last decade, the FE sector has had to deal with an average 30% funding cut, whilst our running and delivery costs have increased dramatically. As a result of government underfunding and with no change in that situation imminent, the College is unable to afford more than the current 1% being paid.
“It is regrettable that we are in this situation, and my focus will be on keeping the College open and ensuring that our students and their studies are not adversely affected as a result of any industrial action. I fully understand the position and sympathise with the staffing body of Kendal College, and will obviously respect any actions and decisions they make going forward.
“Kendal College finances are classified as being ‘satisfactory’ and we have been under early financial intervention for the last two years with little change in our overall financial health position.
“Over recent months, in order to improve the Colleges finances and to allow us to invest more in staff and resource, I have been actively making savings and efficiencies, with these savings being used to secure the College’s ongoing ability to deliver first class education and training.”
The College will continue to work with UCU and staff representatives as appropriate.