The fight for a new settlement in FE begins – all out in the Autumn

Around 150 branches in Further Education colleges are preparing to ballot over a new settlement for FE. UCU FE members are demanding an inflation + 2% pay rise, an England-wide binding bargaining and workload agreement. 

The consultative ballot results, where 87% voted to take strike action on a 51% turn-out, demonstrated that there is a real appetite to fight. 

This will come as no surprise to anyone who works in the sector. 

Further Education is significantly underfunded and has been for many years. Further education not only receives less funding than schools but it is the only sector that has a one-year delayed funding cycle that prohibits forward planning. Wages have been cut by 30% in real terms over the last decade and we have lost 25,000 jobs over the same period but student numbers remain the same. 

Cuts in guided learning hours and student attendance chasing has ratcheted up workloads leading to an increase in physical and mental health problems. HR put on well-being workshops and send out helpline telephone numbers whilst they introduce more punitive sick leave, observation and capabilities policies. 

Heads of Quality do their utmost to ensure that practitioners are continuously micro-managed. Introducing round after round of new procedures for student data inputting leading to disciplinary charges as we fail to meet their impossible deadlines. 

The role of management becomes more about spreadsheet analysis and crunching stats as they dance to the tune of marketisation and competition, leading to a worsening of staff and student educational experience. 

It is all this and more that lay behind the high turnouts and votes for action in the consultative ballots. 

Prepare for action: level up the sector 

We have an opportunity to begin to put an end to the undermining of our professionalism and in defence of real student-centred learning by voting for strike action in the ballot that will be dropping on your door mats at the beginning of September. 

Make sure your branch is ready: 

This year’s campaign is also about levelling up the sector. We can no longer accept the disparities of pay and conditions that exist. We must put an end to the race to the bottom our employers engage in. 

The Further Education Committee (FEC) is asking every branch to approach their employer to agree to request the AoC to enter negotiations over a binding bargaining and workload agreement. 

Below is a statement made by the employer at Capital City College Group (CCCG) after UCU ask this question: 

‘We are pleased to work with union colleagues in UCU and UNISON, the AoC and other colleagues to discuss the fact that the FE staff deserve a better pay deal. We believe that the national bargaining framework in place for 6th form college pay has provided some benefits. We will work with union colleagues and the AoC to understand the implications of unions’ request to support a nationally binding bargaining agreement in England now that the sector has been reclassified as being part of the public sector.  We are keen to continue to support colleagues’ wellbeing and will explore a national workload policy further with unions, the Board, the AoC and other colleges in the sector to work through implications.’ (This statement can be used.) 

The door has been opened. CCCG management would not have made such a statement before consulting and reaching an agreement with other employers. CCCG is the third largest employer in the country. We need to build a momentum by getting other employers agreeing to do this. 

Let’s make FE visible: Build the England – wide demonstration 

At the Further Education Sector Conference, a motion was carried to call a demonstration in Central London on the second day of the first tranche of strike action to take our demands to government. The FEC has confirmed that this will be going ahead. 

By the time we take action other unions including the NEU, the Junior Doctors and the RMT could also be taking action too. This year we have witnessed the biggest wave of strike action for a generation. Now it’s our turn to make FE visible. 

The possibility of a post -16 education strike is also on the cards; in October our colleagues in HE will have balloted too. 

Dharminder Singh Chuhan, FEC UK-elected, Sandwell College 

Nina Doran, FEC UK-elected, City of Liverpool College 

Delmena Doyley, FEC London & East, Croydon College 

Peter Evans, FEC LGBT+, Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College 

John Fones, FEC South, Bridgwater & Taunton College 

Naina Kent, FEC UK-elected, Hackney ACE 

Richard McEwan, FEC London & East, New City College 

Juliana Ojinnaka, FEC Black members, The Sheffield College 

Regi Pilling, FEC Women members, Capital City College Group 

Doug Webley, FEC Midlands, South and City College Birmingham 

Elaine White, FEC North East, Bradford College 

Sean Vernell, FEC UK elected, City and Islington College 


See UCU training to support branches with tailored support for reps:  

To support branch participation in the campaign, provide guidance and help with preparations for the autumn term ballot…

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