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College staff to strike despite severe national funding cuts

Despite severe government funding cuts affecting the further education sector, a minority of teaching staff at Sunderland College have voted in favour of industrial action, in a dispute over national pay negotiations.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will strike on 28 February, following a pay offer of 1 per cent, made last September by the Association of Colleges (AoC), which represents colleges on pay. The National Joint Forum, which consists of unions representing college staff, submitted a claim for a 6.9 per cent pay increase.

Ellen Thinnesen, Principal and Chief Executive at Sunderland College, said:

“We have been advised that the AoC has no intention of reopening national pay negotiations. This is a local dispute – around 93 per cent of UCU members, in 270 colleges, were not balloted in this targeted action, meaning that there was, and is, no mandate for national action.

“We value our workforce, however, Sunderland College is not in a financial position to be able to make a pay award of 6.9 per cent.  Given the severe funding cuts that the College has been subject to in recent years, our offer of the national recommendation of 1 per cent or a minimum of £250, is the maximum affordable.”

She continues:

“Sunderland College is experiencing a 5 per cent demographic decline in school leavers in Sunderland, an increase in the number of local schools offering or proposing to offer sixth form provision, and a 25 per cent real-terms reduction in government funding.

“Unfortunately, the strike action will have much more impact on students than it will have on the Government, which has starved colleges of the investment needed to support better pay”.

Although the industrial action will effect 16 colleges nationwide, Sunderland College had the lowest percentage of members voting to strike. Only 51 per cent of those eligible to vote locally agreed with the action.

The College will remain open during the industrial action and continue to offer a positive learning environment to students and the community.

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