STAFF at Sunderland College will vote on strike action over wage cuts.
Lecturers at the city college are to be balloted for industrial action as a result of the pay row which union bosses say could see members losing almost a third of their salary.
The University and College Union, UCU, says the college intends to cut the salaries of more than 150 lecturers by £10,000 and downgrade 70 per cent of its teaching workforce to inferior pay grades.
Union officials accused the college of using funding difficulties in further education as an excuse to cut pay by an amount which they claim breaches nationally-agreed pay scales.
They say it will leave Sunderland College staff paid far less than lecturers elsewhere.
However, the college says it will not be 70 per cent taking a pay cut because some lecturers are already on the lower pay scales, and the difference in grades is £9,042 gross not £10,000.
UCU regional official Iain Owens said: “Nobody is blind to the funding challenges facing further education at the moment, but there is no excuse for cutting pay in this way.
“The college’s actions are completely disproportionate and seem little more than an attempt to deliver teaching on the cheap.
“Small cuts can be lived with, but you can’t expect to cut people’s wages by almost a third and expect them to carry on like nothing has happened.
“People are facing the prospects of not being able to pay their mortgages.
“These punitive plans will deter the best and brightest from wanting to come and work at Sunderland College, as they will be paid far less than the national average.”
Barry Campbell, chairman of the Sunderland College branch of the UCU, said: “Members are very disheartened. They feel like it is a slap in the face for delivering continued high success rates. Last year we accepted an increase of 8.5 per cent in teaching hours and also a reduction in holidays, but there is only so much we can take.
“This amount of money is not a minor life change, it is a major one. It could result in people having to sell their homes.”
Nigel Harrett, vice-principal curriculum and student support at Sunderland College, said: “We have an amount of money to save and are looking at various ways of making those savings, and have started from a worst- case scenario.
“Difficult times mean taking difficult decisions, whether that’s cutting jobs or cutting costs, and we are trying to keep job losses to an absolute minimum.”