COLLEGE lecturers today took to the picket lines to protest over pay reforms that could see their wages slashed by thousands of pounds.
The dispute centres on plans to cut the salaries of more than 150 lecturers at Sunderland College and downgrade 70 per cent of the teaching workforce.
Staff say they cannot afford to take such massive wage cuts and today aimed to make their voices heard, while college bosses argue a £2.2million funding cut has left them with no alternative.
After rejecting a proposed wage cut of £10,000 the staff have now rejected a second offer of a cut of £3,000.
Jude Leftham, a Bede Campus representative for UCU at the picket line, said: “We think that the quality of teaching will suffer because of these cuts.
“Lecturers will not be able to fulfil the same duties if they are on a lower pay grade and we hope that college takes note of our strength of feeling.
“We have to be accountable for what we do but they seem to have spent money, like on external consultants, without justifying why they have spent it.”
Kevin Lynch, a disability adviser at the college, said: “A strike is always the last resort and no one wants to do it.
“I hope it will mean they take a look at other flexible ways of meeting a financial shortfall as they are lowering the standards of education.”
Iain Owens, UCU regional officer, said: “UCU members very reluctantly went on strike today, at a critical time in the academic year, because they are not prepared to see their pay go down.
“Whilst the college’s proposals may not be as draconian as first proposed, they still mean a cut of £3,000.
“Our members simply can’t afford it.”
College principal Angela O’Donoghue said: “We are disappointed that the union has decided to go ahead with the strike action as we believe it is premature as talks are still ongoing.
“The college has put forward a number of suggestions, none of which are set in stone and we are confident a positive outcome can be reached.
“We do need to remind everyone that the only reason the college is considering these reforms is because it has had its funding cut by £2.2million next year, and feel it would be more useful to put our energies into minimising impact on our students and finding a solution we can all accept.
“To minimise interruption to studies, the learning centres will be open as usual and support will continue to be provided.
“All exams will go ahead as planned and students should attend as normal.
“Sunderland College is committed to providing outstanding education to all of our students and is sorry that this issue has led to disruption.”