Sunderland College staff strike over ongoing pay deal dispute

The UCU regional banner has been put on display by members outside the Bede Campus of Sunderland College.
The UCU regional banner has been put on display by members outside the Bede Campus of Sunderland College.

More than 100 staff at Sunderland College are on strike today.

The UCU union is taking a second day of action following on as a continuation of the previous strike on February 28, which they say is over "a lack of proper pay award."

UCU members outside Sunderland College's City Campus this morning.

UCU members outside Sunderland College's City Campus this morning.

Pickets have been set up at the college's City Campus, Bede Campus on Durham Road, where a large regional UCU banner has been put on display, and the Washington Campus.

Kevin Lynch, who represents the UCU Sunderland College branch and a learning support lecturer, said: "College employees have been awarded 1% over two years which is way below inflation and means a pay cut in real terms.

"We have offered to negotiate and provided alternatives but management have, so far, not responded.

"One per cent over two years remains the lowest offer across the whole of Northern England.

"The college is undergoing its third restructure in three years which is a unique and unwanted position for the college.

"Other colleges in the North East have been operating under the same economic conditions as Sunderland yet have been able to offer pay awards.

"Sunderland College is not a particularly militant branch yet members have made it clear how disappointed they are that they are not valued.

"This is a local dispute, not national.

"Apart from a lack of pay, less people are doing more work."

Ellen Thinnesen, the college's principal and chief executive, said: “We are very disappointed that the union has decided to take this action, which will negatively impact our learners.

"The college works tirelessly to create a positive working culture for all our staff, in an increasingly difficult financial environment.

“Over the next year, we have some major challenges including a 5% demographic decline in school leavers in Sunderland, an increase in the number of local schools offering or proposing to offer sixth form provision and a 25% real-terms reduction in government funding.

"As a business we have no choice but to make challenging decisions to protect Sunderland College, and ensure there is a viable future of exceptional education provision for our community.

“The management and governance of the college feel this action is unnecessary and hope the unions will reconsider their position.”