UCU general secretary Sally Hunt tells UnionNews her members have a clear mandate for action
Around 20,000 lecturers at over 200 further education colleges across the country are taking strike action today in a row over pay.
Our members are angry that the employers’ representatives, the Association of Colleges, recommended a pay freeze, despite staff suffering a real-terms pay cut of 17.1% in the last five years. Three-quarters (74%) of University and College Union (UCU) members who voted back strike action after the employers rejected the joint trade unions’ pay claim of £1 an hour extra for staff.
No education worker wants to strike but after years of pay cuts and attacks on their jobs, terms and conditions, UCU members are sick of the employers’ refusal to deal with the real-terms pay cuts that have blighted the sector. For the Association of Colleges to recommend that all of their members freeze staff pay this year was a real insult.
Analysis of adult education budgets published by the House of Commons library released today warns that a third of further education colleges could be under threat from the government’s spending plans. There is a real danger that the magnitude of these cuts could spell the end for some courses and would shut the door on many learners who use adult education as a springboard for improving their skills.
The current cuts to adult education budgets have been a devastating blow to colleges and will change the face of further education in many parts of the country. Funding for adult skills has already fallen 35% since 2009. Not everyone needs or wants to study an apprenticeship, but colleges are being forced to prioritise apprenticeships over other kinds of learning.
On top of the reduction in budgets, the focus on rationalisation and efficiency through area reviews can only lead to a narrower curriculum and risks leaving many students high and dry if their aspirations don’t match local economic priorities. Colleges need stable investment to continue to help people of all backgrounds fulfil their potential.
Members who voted gave a clear mandate for strike action on pay and this is why our members are out today. We hope the employers will now come back to the table to resolve the situation for those that both work and study in this vital sector.
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