A strike at Kendal College scheduled for Tuesday (29 January) remains on, the University and College Union (UCU) said today. The union said it had hoped the college would come forward with a serious offer to avoid the disruption, but none has been forthcoming.
Staff will be on picket lines from 8am at the Milnthorpe Road entrance to the main campus in Kendal. UCU members will walk out for a second day’s action on Tuesday 12 February if the dispute is not resolved.
The dispute centres on the failure of colleges to make a decent pay offer to staff who have seen their pay decline by 25% over the last decade. The pay gap between schoolteachers and teachers in colleges is now £7,000. In the recent ballot, 96% of UCU members who voted backed strike action.
UCU regional official Iain Owens said: “UCU members at Kendal College will be on strike next week because 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 action is on the cards for next month.”
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.”
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.
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.