UCU members in Sunderland to strike over pay as members at Bristol ballot for action over workload

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Lecturers at Sunderland College have voted overwhelmingly to take strike action in a row over pay.

Nine in ten (88%) UCU members who voted backed strike action and over three-quarters (77%) backed action short of a strike, which would see members working to contract and not fulfilling the many other duties they take on in addition to their contracted work.

The strike date will be announced shortly.

The dispute centres on the college’s plans to cut the salaries of more than 150 lecturers by £10,000 and downgrade 70% of its teaching workforce to inferior pay grades.

The move breaches nationally-agreed paid scales and will leave Sunderland College staff paid far less than lecturers elsewhere and around £8,000 less than the average UK full-time worker.

The union accused the college of trying to deliver teaching on the cheap and using the current funding difficulties in further education as an excuse to cut staff pay. UCU said nobody wanted to take strike action, but the overwhelming mandate for action meant the college had to think again.

UCU regional official Iain Owens said: “Nobody wants to take strike action but members will not sit by while their pay and conditions are attacked in this punitive way. The college cannot afford to dismiss this result and should be looking to work with us instead of finding excuses to deliver teaching on the cheap.

“Breaching nationally agreed pay scales is not in the long-term interest of the institution. It will succeed only in destroying morale and deterring the best and the brightest from wanting to come and work at a college where they will be paid far less than the national average.”

* Meanwhile, UCU members at the University of Western England are balloting for action in a dispute over workloads.

Staff say a new workload calculation system has resulted in over two-thirds (70%) of academic staff regularly working unreasonable hours to fulfil their duties, while three in five (60%) say they are unable to take their annual leave entitlement.

Under the new system some staff have seen their working hours increase by 25% above their contracted hours, with many reporting that they are being asked to take on more teaching and administrative work in addition to their vital research duties.

UCU said the new system had failed and because the university’s management refused to reconsider its use, members at UWE had been left with no option but to ballot for strike action.

UCU regional official Nova Gresham, said: “The new workload model has resulted in many staff putting in huge amounts of unpaid overtime and skipping holidays just to keep up. Forcing academics to teach more hours and perform the same demanding research duties is not a blueprint for success.

“Management has succeeded only in demoralising the workforce with this new system which is clearly not fit-for-purpose. UWE members have been left with no choice but to ballot for industrial action.”


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