10:04 AM October 12, 2022
College staff across east London have gone on strike in a row over pay amidst the cost-of-living crisis.
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at New City College’s (NCC) London campuses are among those across the country to take part in a walk-out.
Strike action began at NCC’s Havering, Redbridge, Hackney and Tower Hamlets sites on Thursday (October 6) and continued until yesterday, with three more days scheduled for October 18, 19 and 20.
A UCU spokesperson said the union is “demanding employers make a pay offer that reflects the soaring cost of living”.
Rebecca Durand, an English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) teacher at the Arbour Square campus in Stepney Green, argued that teachers and learning support staff are unable to continue on the current pay offer.
She said: “People are really struggling financially and it’s just going to get worse.
“It’s not only pay, the workload is unmanageable. We feel disrespected.”
UCU says a pay increase offer from college employer representative the Association of Colleges (AoC) in June is not enough to reflect rising inflation.
Back then, the AoC made a recommendation to raise pay by 2.5pc for all staff.
But UCU general secretary Jo Grady called the offer “an insult”.
She said: “This strike action is entirely the fault of college bosses who would rather see disruption hit colleges than give their own staff a fair pay deal. It is a disgrace.
“College staff are the beating heart of education and transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of students every year.
“Where we receive meaningful offers from employers we are willing to negotiate. But first college principals need to make serious pay offers that address the cost-of-living crisis.”
An AoC spokesperson said colleges have faced years of cuts and increased costs, which had been made worse by the Covid pandemic and the current energy crisis.
They added: “Leaders in colleges across the country recognise the enormous financial challenges their staff are facing because of the cost-of-living crisis and are doing all that they can to raise wages, whilst maintaining the financial security of their organisations.”
But they added that a “meaningful” increase would only be possible with greater government funding for colleges and said it was continuing to push for that.
Rebecca also hit out at New City College’s management, claiming staff are angry with the closure of nurseries.
The college only has one remaining nursery on its Hackney campus, after the closure of nurseries at Arbour Square and in Havering.
Stepping Stones, which was based at NCC’s Ardleigh Green site in Hornchurch, was shut earlier this year.
The closure followed an internal consultation and NCC vowed to support parents to find alternative provision.
New City College did not directly respond to Rebecca’s comment on the nursery closures.
On the strike action, an NCC spokesperson said: “No lessons have been cancelled due to the action and students have continued to attend college as usual.
“Staff have already received an early pay award above the sector agreement and the college has offered to UCU various options for further increases.
“Strikes will not find more money for pay.”
UCU members at 23 colleges across England took part in the strike action, with the union saying the three further strike dates will go ahead “unless suitable pay offers are made”.
It follows a report UCU published in the summer which revealed more than 80 per cent of college staff it surveyed said their financial situation is harming their mental health.
The union survey, which had more than 2,700 responses across more than 200 colleges in England, also found seven in ten said they were considering leaving the sector unless pay is increased.