By SANJANA IDNANI
When students return to Croydon College next month, many hopeful for an uninterrupted academic year after 18 months of lockdown disruption, they could walk straight into strike action by their lecturers and other staff.
An overwhelming majority – 89 per cent – of members of the University and College Union at Croydon College and 14 other colleges in England have voted for strike action. Six south London colleges took part in the ballot (which had a 62 per cent turn-out): Croydon, Carshalton College, Lambeth College, Merton College, Wandsworth and Tooting College, and Kingston College.
UCU members are demanding a pay increase of greater than 5 per cent to help close what they call “the school-college pay gap”, and which they say stands at £9,000, after more than a decade of below-inflation wage increases for further education staff.
The decision to strike follows a long-standing dispute. UCU members at Croydon College went on strike to demand a 5 per cent pay rise in 2018 and 2019.
The dispute has escalated after the body that oversees FE institutions, the Association of Colleges, recommend that colleges give their staff only a 1 per cent pay rise. They said this was because of the “severe financial pressure” that colleges are facing as a result of covid-19.
The UCU said staff are “angry” at this offer after years of joint campaigning with colleges won further education a £400million increase in government funding, £224million of which arrived in August 2020.
According to the UCU, college bosses at the AoC indicated that it would make a more significant pay recommendation because of this funding. The UCU action has the support of other unions, including Unite, Unison, GMB and the National Education Union.
The UCU said that college leaders have until September to meet their demands, or they will take strike action.
Jo Grady, the UCU general secretary, said, “This ballot result is an emphatic message from college staff to principals that they will not sit back while their pay is held down.
“Thanks to UCU’s campaigning, colleges received an injection of government funding, but they have failed to work with us to prioritise pay. Instead, employers have recommended a derisory 1 per cent pay rise, which is a real term pay cut.
“Pay in further education is a problem, and it is time for colleges and the AoC to get serious and do something about it.”
Croydon College offers a range of further and higher education courses, including BTECs, NVQs, and apprenticeships, as well as degree courses validated by Roehampton University. It also includes the world-famous Croydon College of Art. The most recent available figures suggests that Croydon College has 10,000 enrolled students.
Croydon College failed to respond to our invitation for comment.
- Independent websites like Inside Croydon depend on regular subscriptions from our readers to enable us to continue to deliver exclusive, headline-making journalism – the sort of scrutiny that Croydon Council would prefer did not exist. Please sign up today as a subscriber. Click here
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named the country’s rottenest borough in 2020 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine – the fourth successive year that Inside Croydon has been the source for such award-winning nominations
- Inside Croydon: 3million page views in 2020. Seen by 1.4million unique visitors