From 23 April to 17 May UNISON ran a formal industrial action ballot in 13 colleges in England where a significant number of members voted in our consultation and made clear they would be willing to take action to secure a better offer from their employers.
Although UNISON members voted in favour of strike action in nine of these colleges, turnout was not enough to meet the threshold for strikes set out in the 2017 Trade Union Act.
UNISON’s further education and sixth form committee considered the result and stated: “We would like to thank those activists, branches and regions that put in significant work to achieve the result.
“Unfortunately, and frustratingly, the trade union laws, which impose a very high turnout threshold, mean that we are not able to fulfil our members’ wishes.”
Which colleges were in the ballot?
- Abingdon & Witney College
- Blackburn College
- Bolton College
- Bradford College
- Greater Brighton Metropolitan College
- Leeds City College
- Leeds College of Building
- LTE Group (Manchester College)
- Norwich City College
- Warwickshire Colleges Group
- Wirral Metropolitan College
- York College
Lambeth College was originally in this pay ballot but the threat of strike action led the employer to put forward an improved offer, which has been accepted by members. Staff earning less than £40,000 will receive a 3% pay rise for the year, while those earning more than £40,000 will receive a 2% pay rise. There will be one-off £250 payments for staff earning under £26,000, and all staff on new contracts will receive the same contractual sick pay entitlement as their existing colleagues. The threat of strike action worked.
What was the ballot about?
The Association of Colleges (AoC) – the employers’ representative in England – recommended a 1% pay increase, or a one-off payment of £250, whichever is greater.
UNISON and other unions representing college workers submitted a joint claim for a pay rise of 5% or £1,500 a year for workers earning less than £30,000 a year.
You can see there is a significant difference between what we think our hardworking FE staff should get and what they are being offered.
Who decides my pay?
Pay in further education colleges in England is decided at a local level. Unlike Scotland, England does not have a national bargaining system in which colleges are obliged to offer a centrally awarded pay offer. However, the employers, represented by the Association of Colleges (AoC), do negotiate a pay recommendation annually with unions and many colleges award the recommendation.
Which colleges are in the ballot?
UNISON members in the following colleges are being balloted:
Abingdon & Witney College
Greater Brighton Metropolitan College
Lambeth College/South Bank Colleges
Leeds City College
Leeds College of Building
LTE Group (Manchester College)
Norwich City College
Warwickshire Colleges Group
Wirral Metropolitan College
What happens in a statutory ballot?
A statutory ballot is a legal requirement if members want to take further action to secure better pay and conditions at work. In this case, the ballot will ask one question:
- would you be prepared to take strike action?
What is strike action?
Strike action means that a member withdraws their labour (i.e. does not go into the workplace) and consequently will not receive pay for the period that they were on strike.
UNISON is recommending that you vote YES for strike action to send a message to your employer that you deserve a better pay offer.
Why haven’t I received details about this?
Sometimes members’ records are not up-to-date on the systems we hold. You will need to check what information we have for you using this link https://registration.unison.org.uk/ or calling UNISONdirect on 0800 0 857 857.
You will then be able to update your records with your current email and home address. We’ll email you to remind you to return your ballot paper.
Will I receive ballot papers in the post?
Yes. Eligible members will receive ballot papers at their home address. If you haven’t received one by 29 April, please phone the ballot helpline on 0800 0 857857.
Are brand new members eligible to vote?
Yes, so long as you have applied and registered your details by 9 May.
Joining online is the quickest and easiest way to join UNISON: