Halesowen College calls for fairer funding amid planned strike action

A college in the Black Country where staff are set to strike has called for a fair funding settlement for the further education sector so it can give a 'meaningful pay award' to its workers.

Halesowen College
Halesowen College

The dispute over pay is between University and College Union (UCU) members and college employers, including Halesowen College among 38 others.

The union says it balloted members after employers refused to improve a pay offer of 2.5 per cent in negotiations.

Almost 90 per cent of its members voted yes to strike action on an overall turnout of 57.9 per cent.

At Halesowen College, 82.8 per cent of members voted for industrial action, with a turnout of 78.4 per cent.

In a statement, the college said it seeks to recruit, retain, develop and reward its staff but added: "Like all colleges around the country, we are dealing with a situation in which staff salaries, as a result of years of government underfunding, are lower than equivalent positions in schools and higher education.

"We also fully appreciate that sharp increases in the cost of living are challenging for all of our staff.

"We have not yet made a pay offer for 2022/23; this will be considered by our corporation in the autumn based on our financial profile. However, whilst we wish to make a meaningful award, any pay award must be affordable for the college.

"The increase in funding for 16-18 year old learners has been wiped out by the government’s directive that the college must deliver at least 40 additional hours for each study programme from September 2022.

"Halesowen College has challenged this approach with the Education and Skills Funding Agency and raised concern about this with the Association of Colleges. Moreover, there is no national increase for adult learners or apprenticeships and hasn’t been for some time.

"We are concerned about the potential impact of extensive strike action on the education of young people and adults. It is important that a fair funding settlement is given to the further education sector enabling us to make a meaningful pay award and, attract and retain skilled and talented staff.

"This will in turn allow us to continue to provide outstanding levels of teaching and learning and, develop the skills needed for the future."

Dates for the strike action have yet to be decided.

Speaking earlier this week, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "College staff have shown that they are sick and tired of falling pay and have voted overwhelmingly for strike action after employers offered an insulting 2.5 per cent uplift in pay.

"College workers have had their pay held down so long that the vast majority now face financial insecurity.

"Yet as the cost of living crisis bites employers want their staff to take a further hit with more below inflation pay rises.

"This is completely unacceptable and shows exactly why many staff are voting with their feet and choosing to leave the sector altogether.

"After receiving increased funding from government, colleges now have the money to begin properly paying their staff – and they must do so to avoid disruption when the new academic year begins in September."

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