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Nottingham college workers plan 15 days of walkouts
Nottingham UCU activist
University and College Union (UCU) members at Nottingham College are to begin 15 days of strike action. Organised over five weeks, the first stoppage will be on 11 September. This will be followed by a two-day strike in week two increasing to a week-long strike in week five.
The action follows a successful one-day strike on 1 July, in which teachers boycotted the college's professional development day in favour of their own picket line festival outside the college's Clarendon campus.
The strike is over a contracts and pay dispute at what is now the city's sole further education institution, formed after the merger of Nottingham's two remaining colleges in 2017.
In June of this year, the college tabled a contract demanding increased teaching hours, cuts in holiday and professional development entitlement, a reduction in long-term sick pay and the loss of important contractual protections, including a workload agreement that would set reasonable limits on weekly teaching hours.
The contract proposals followed a job evaluation exercise that, while giving pay rises to many teachers whose pay had eroded over years without pay rises, would have meant pay cuts of up to £1,500 a year for over 150 teachers.
UCU had already informed management that they were willing to agree a new contract for the merged college (as they had after previous city mergers) but that this had to be on the basis of 'no overall detriment'.
Over the course of negotiation, the college agreed or proposed a number of 'concessions'. These include restoring three days holiday, protecting long-term sick pay for existing staff and reducing the number of staff suffering reduction in pay.
However, UCU rightly argue that these shifts are inadequate given management's extreme starting point. It is unreasonable that 20% of teachers would still lose pay of around £1,000 a year.
A workload agreement is essential to protect both staff well-being and the quality of their students' education. UCU point out that, despite other colleges facing financial constraints, deals over pay and conditions are being achieved in the sector.
UCU members have been particularly incensed by the college's aggressive 'sign or be sacked' stance in which teachers were given the ultimatum either to accept the new contract or be dismissed.
The branch balloted for action over in May, and achieved a 96% vote for action on a 72% turnout. The dispute follows two years of post-merger uncertainty and turmoil at the college, which has been marked by redundancy, failing IT systems, cuts in learning support, exam chaos and a collapse of morale.
UCU are urging the college management and its corporation to reconsider their position.
They point to the recent announcement of £400 million new funding for the sector, which, although insufficient to make good the cuts suffered since 2010, removes the financial argument that the college has relied on to attack its teachers' terms and conditions.
Autumn university pension strike ballot
The UCU is balloting university members in the universities superannuation scheme (USS) for strike action against bosses' proposals that would see members pay 9.6% of their salary into the scheme, compared to 8.8% at present. Further hikes are planned from 2021.
Workers took strike action against plans to scrap the scheme in 2018, taking 14 days of determined action which forced bosses organisation Universities UK to back off and to offer major concessions.
UCU will now ballot its members at 69 universities The ballot will open on Monday 9 September and close on Wednesday 30 October.
In The Socialist 4 September 2019:
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