College staff to to strike in pay dispute

Sunderland College's city campus.
Sunderland College's city campus.

Sunderland College staff will go on strike tomorrow over changes which have left fewer staff doing more work.

University and College Union (UCU) members will be on the picket lines in the city centre, Bede and Washington campuses as they call for improvements to pay.

Ellen Thinnesen, college principal and chief executive of Sunderland College.

Ellen Thinnesen, college principal and chief executive of Sunderland College.

They say their 1% rise over a two-year period is “insulting” and a “cut in real terms”, while two restructures have seen a reduction in staff and an increase in stress levels.

The union says other colleges in the region have awarded a rise in excess of the Association of College’s (AoC) recommendation for the last two years.

It says also the college have spent an estimated £250,000 on consultants, while a merger with Hartlepool Sixth Form has seen its teachers employed on different terms and conditions, earning up to £4,000 more than those at Sunderland.

An UCU spokesman said: “This is our first strike for years. This shows the depth of feeling amongst UCU members. We have offered alternatives and a willingness to negotiate on several occasions but the college management have not taken this up.”

Unfortunately, the strike action will have much more impact on students than it will have on the Government, which has starved colleges of the investment needed to support better pay.

Ellen Thinnesen

Ellen Thinnesen, college principal and chief executive, said: “We value our workforce, however, Sunderland College is not in a financial position to be able to make a pay award of 6.9%. 

“Given the severe funding cuts that the college has been subject to in recent years, our offer of the national recommendation of 1% or a minimum of £250, is the maximum affordable.

“Unfortunately, the strike action will have much more impact on students than it will have on the Government.”