College staff balloted over strike action

Staff at Barnet and Southgate College urged by union to back industrial action, reports David Floyd

The Southgate campus of Barnet and Southgate College in Southgate High Street (credit Google)
The Southgate campus of Barnet and Southgate College in Southgate High Street (credit Google)

The leadership of University and College Union (UCU) visited Barnet and Southgate College last week to call on staff to vote ‘yes’ in a strike ballot.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady and president Janet Farrar went to both the Barnet and Southgate campuses of the college to ask staff to reject a 2% pay offer from management in the face of rising inflation, which is currently estimated at 11.7% by some measures. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Staff at Barnet and Southgate College are voting yes to strike action because they are sick and tired of being undervalued by their employer. 

“The current offer of 2% is well below inflation and will do nothing to help staff through a devastating cost of living crisis. All of those who work in further education need to push back against a college that does not value its staff and force management to come back to the table with a better offer.”

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The college’s chief executive, Darren Mepham, defended Barnet and Southgate’s record while acknowledging that pay for college staff across the country had not kept pace with inflation. He said: “Unlike many colleges we have been able to make very modest increases every year but that is not enough and it’s undeniable that the present cost of living crisis is hitting college staff hard.”

He added: “It is important to note that we did manage to fund an additional £500 lump sum payment this year for all staff (except senior managers).” 

However, Darren said that the college was not in a position to increase wages further due to the level of funding available from the government and the knock-on effects of inflation on the college’s own spending. 

He called on staff to reject strike action, saying: “Strike action will not magic any more money into existence. Strike action will only serve to interrupt our students’ learning and will do so just as they are looking forward to a more ‘normal’ educational experience compared to that of the last few years during the pandemic. I would hope that this is recognised by the hard working and committed teams here at the college.” 

The ballot of staff at over 30 colleges across England closes on Friday, 15th July.  

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