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Lessons hit as college lecturers strike over pay at New City's Poplar and Stepney campuses

PUBLISHED: 10:57 03 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:17 03 December 2019

Official picket outside New City College in Poplar by University & College Union which voted 96pc for strike. Picture: UCU

Official picket outside New City College in Poplar by University & College Union which voted 96pc for strike. Picture: UCU

UCU

Staff have gone out on strike today at New City College campuses at Poplar and Stepney in a dispute over pay and working conditions.

College tutors on strike at New City get official canine support on the picket at the Poplar campus. Picture: UCUCollege tutors on strike at New City get official canine support on the picket at the Poplar campus. Picture: UCU

Around 85 of the 100 further education lecturers belonging to the University and College Union voted for action which they say hit lessons today, although the college denies any disruption to students' timetables.

The 48-hour walkout started at 8am with pickets outside the campus entrances in Poplar High Street and a mile away at Arbour Square, joining other pickets at colleges across London.

It follows the break-down in talks over salaries which the union says haven't kept pace with inflation and have lost value by a quarter in the past decade.

"Strike action is never taken lightly," UCU regional official Caroline Lake said. "But staff are tired of hearing the same old excuses.

Remnants of picket clearing up outside New City College Stepney campus where staff members are on 48-hour strike. Picture: College memberRemnants of picket clearing up outside New City College Stepney campus where staff members are on 48-hour strike. Picture: College member

"The college cannot continue using government cuts as a reason to hold down pay when other institutions are finding ways to reward their staff fairly."

The union is urging the college to "follow the lead" of the Capital City College Group which recently agreed a 5pc pay deal for its 1,700 staff in London.

The pay gap between teachers in colleges and schools is currently £7,000, it points out, despite most heads of colleges in London claiming pay as "a major obstacle" in attracting staff.

Union members have already taken six days of strike action this year, with a three-day walkout in May followed by two days in June and another in September.

They were balloted for further strikes in September when nine out of 10 of those who voted backed more walkouts over rising workloads as well as movers to improve contracts and formal recognition for trade unions.

The college group itself has been battling with Whitehall for more resources. Its group principal Gerry McDonald led a mass lobby to Parliament with other London further education institutions four years ago to stop government budget cuts which it blamed for lack of funds to improve salaries.

But the union today rejects what it calls "an excuse" blaming education cuts when other college groups have found the money for a 5pc pay rise.

New City denies lessons were affected by today's strike and says all students turned up while "only a handful" of tutors walked out.

A college statement to the East London Advertiser said: "Students are attending college as usual, in line with their timetables. All classes are covered and scheduled exams are unaffected."

It has awarded a pay rise to staff both this year and in 2018, the college points out.

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