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January, 2019:

Prime Minister’s claim to respect FE does not stand up to scrutiny

30 January 2019

The Prime Minister’s claim to respect further education does not stand up to scrutiny and will ring hollow with the hundreds of UCU members out on strike over pay this week.

Theresa May was responding to question from Toby Perkins MP at Prime Minister’s Questions on the funding crisis in further education.

The Chesterfield MP said that funding for further education had been cut by 30% in the last decade and asked the Prime Minister why students attending further education colleges were worth so little to the government.

UCU members at 13 colleges across England are on strike this week as part of a second wave of strikes after staff at six colleges took action in November. The union said that the government’s claim to respect further education did not stand up to scrutiny and pointed out that:

·         Further education has been the biggest loser in education funding

·         The pay gap between teachers in colleges and schools currently stands at £7,000

·         College staff have seen their pay decline by 25% over the last decade

·         Around two-thirds of college heads say pay is a major obstacle to attracting staff

UCU head of policy Matt Waddup said: ‘The pay crisis in our colleges has got so bad that staff are on strike to fight for fair pay. The Prime Minister’s claim to respect further education does not stand up to scrutiny and will ring hollow with the hundreds of staff braving the cold on picket lines today.

‘Colleges must not use the continued failings of this government to shirk their responsibility to their staff. UCU will continue to campaign for more investment for the sector, but colleges that want to avoid further disruption need to start working with us and putting their staff first.’

Harlow Industrial Action 29 & 30 January

 

UCU comment on raising of fees for two year degrees

23 January 2019

Commenting on the raising of the cap on fees for two-year degrees to £11,100 a year in England, UCU said the government needed to fix a system that piled debts on students. The union also said that the move was more about allowing for-profit companies access to public money than increasing choice for students.

UCU head of policy Matt Waddup said: ‘Instead of gimmicks which risk undermining the international reputation of our higher education sector, the government should focus on fixing the underlying problems with our current finance system which piles huge debts on students.

‘This decision is not about increasing real choice for students, it is about allowing for-profit companies access to public money through the student loans system. Without proper safeguards, accelerated degrees will quickly become devalued, but the government shows no signs that it understands this.’

Strike Dates Announced at 16 English Colleges

Strike dates announced at 16 English colleges in pay row 15 January 2019

UCU members at 16 English colleges* will be taking strike action at the end of January in their fight for fair pay. Staff will walk out for two days starting on Tuesday 29 January.

The strikes are part of a second wave of action after UCU members 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 colleges refused to make a decent offer and that they could not hide behind government cuts if they wanted to avoid further disruption. UCU said colleges should follow the lead of the Capital City College Group which recently agreed a 5% pay deal for its 1,700 staff.

The union has this week written to education secretary Damian Hinds saying that the government’s ambition for further education cannot be met under its current funding for the sector. In the letter, UCU calls on the government to urgently provide extra funding for staff who feel undervalued and severely underpaid.

UCU head of policy Matt Waddup said: ‘UCU members are being forced to take strike action to secure fair pay because they have had enough of watching their pay being eroded while their workloads increase.

‘The government must take the blame for a failure to invest in further education, but colleges cannot hide behind these cuts to shirk responsibility for their staff. UCU will continue to campaign for more investment from the government but, whether this is forthcoming or not, strikes will continue until colleges show that they are at last prioritising their staff.’

* Abingdon and Witney College

Bath College

Bradford College

Bridgwater and Taunton College

City of Wolverhampton College

Coventry College

Croydon College

East Sussex College

Harlow College

Hugh Baird College

Kendal College ^

Lambeth College

Leicester College ^

New College Swindon

Petroc

West Thames College

^ In order to maximise the impact of their action, Leicester College UCU members will be taking action on Tuesday 29 and Thursday 31 January and members at Kendal College will be taking action on 29 January and 12 February.