Lecturers in three-day walk-out at New City College in Poplar and Stepney
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Lecturers and college staff begin a three-day strike in east London tomorrow when they stage pickets outside the Poplar and Stepney campuses of New City College.
Members of the University and College Union are walking out until Friday over a dispute about increased workloads and pay that hasn’t kept pace with inflation.
They expect up to 150 to join the strike at the campuses in Poplar High Street and Arbour Square.
It’s a long-running dispute that started before Poplar’s former Tower Hamlets College was merged with Hackney and Redbridge colleges two years ago to form the New City group. Staff at the ‘Hackney’ campus in Hoxton are balloting tomorrow on whether to join the strike.
The union action part of a London-wide walk-out involving other colleges which it claims have failed to make “a decent pay offer” to staff whose salaries have shrunk by a-quarter against inflation over the last decade.
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“We haven’t had a pay rise in real terms in a decade,” London regional union organiser Una O’Brien told the East London Advertiser.
“New contracts have been issued which are an improvement for some staff prior to the New City merger, but don’t meet the levels of the ‘better’ contracts—we want all staff to get the better deal.”
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Talks with college management last month hit deadlock.
Students had their lectures cancelled this time last year over the same annual round of pay negotiations when the union rejected New City’s 1pc pay rise that was below inflation, which followed two earlier walk-outs just months before.
The strike actions are a bitter pill for the college following its £1.2 million government spending cuts in 2016 which reduced its budget by almost a third, with several courses having to be dropped.
The crisis led to Principal Gerry McDonald to join a mass London colleges lobby to Parliament.
But he now clams the union’s demands for a significant pay rise and fewer teaching hours are “not feasible”, blaming the government for the continuing crisis.
He said: “It’s a travesty that government funding for further education has been cut year on year for over a decade. It’s now a 30pc reduction over that period.
“I have promised our staff that when government Further Education funding improves, any increase will be spent on their pay.”
He took an unprecedented step last September to scrap fees for anyone learning English as a second language—despite having faced years of budget cuts.
He maintains that his staff have “some of the most favourable pay and terms and conditions” in further education.
But the union points out that the pay ‘freeze’ and the increased workloads has meant lecturers’ salaries have shrunk by 25 per cent against inflation, making strike action “always a last resort”.