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Three-day pay strike hits student lectures at Tower Hamlets and Hackney Community colleges

PUBLISHED: 17:47 09 May 2018 | UPDATED: 09:52 11 May 2018

Lecturers' strike hits Tower Hamlets College campuses in Poplar and Stepney. Picture source: Google

Lecturers' strike hits Tower Hamlets College campuses in Poplar and Stepney. Picture source: Google

Google

Some lecturers will be staging a three-day strike at Tower Hamlets and Hackney Community colleges starting on Friday.

Protesters campaigning against language course cuts in 2016 at New City college campuses. Picture source: UnisonProtesters campaigning against language course cuts in 2016 at New City college campuses. Picture source: Unison

The action will also take place on Monday and Tuesday at their Poplar, Stepney and Hoxton campuses over pay and working conditions.

Their University and College Union is asking for more than the implemented one per cent pay rise saying the current increase is below inflation and would further shrink their income in real terms.

“Staff have had years of pay being suppressed,” a union spokesman said. “We’ve seen pay drop by 25 per cent in real terms since 2009.”

The strike is another blow for both colleges which were hit by £1.2 million government spending cuts in 2016 which has reduced courses being offered.

New City colleges' executive principal Gerry McDonald. Picture: Mike BrookeNew City colleges' executive principal Gerry McDonald. Picture: Mike Brooke

Now staff are facing further squeeze on salaries with below-inflation pay rises recommended by the Association of Colleges, which represents the colleges.

The union’s general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Strike action is a last resort, but we have no option in the face of repeated pay awards below inflation.

“The colleges need to address these concerns if they want to avoid further disruption to students in the coming weeks.”

The colleges blame government cuts for not being able to give the lecturers the six per cent they’ve asked for, but also insist the strikes were disrupting students “during the vital exam season”.

The association’s chief executive David Hughes said: “This action impacts negatively on students, not the government whose chronic underfunding has led to a situation where we are unable to offer staff the rise requested.

“We will continue to pressure the government to recognise the value of the workforce.”

But the latest action, following earlier walk-outs in February and March, also involves a dispute over workloads, according to union sources.

One lecturer at Arbour Square campus, where adult English language courses were disrupted by the dispute earlier this year, told the East London Advertiser: “We have rejected an offer of an extra £3.50 a week for those on top grades because it means giving up the paid hour for admin and to work some evenings.

“These are unacceptable terms that would make working conditions worse for us. “The college can’t make savings by continually cutting salaries in real terms and cutting staff. We’ve also been asked for voluntary redundancies.”

Tower Hamlets and Hackney colleges, now under rebranded ‘New City College’ group management with Redbridge College, has lobbied the government over the cuts they’ve been facing which affected adult courses including English second language.

Group principal and CEO Gerry McDonald said at the time: “Our budget was reduced by 18 per cent. We have to find £700,000 to close the gap.”

It has already led to courses being trimmed, especially adult education. The college said it would remain “open as usual” during days when some teaching staff will be on strike, with all students expected to attend lessons.

A dispute about lecturers’ holiday entitlement at the college group’s Redbridge campus had been settled, the union said.

The latest pay strike is part of a union dispute at other colleges with walk-outs planned during May and June at City and Islington, Westminster Kingsway, Havering, Lewisham, Lambeth, Haringey and Epping Forest.

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