Wigan college staff to strike in pay dispute
Dozens of staff at a Wigan sixth form college are heading for the picket line after a strike was announced in a major row over pay.
A total of 57 employees at St John Rigby College, in Gathurst, are taking part in a single day of industrial action on Thursday.
Staff are downing tools as part of a wider strike action involving 25 further education colleges in England over under-funding of the sector and inadequate pay rises.
In a letter to students St John Rigby said the college will be closed on Thursday with an inset day on Friday.
The National Education Union (NEU), which is in dispute with the secretary of the state for education, also says there will be two further strike days in November if the issues are not resolved.
Max Atkins, Wigan NEU branch secretary, said: “Staff in sixth form colleges have been consistently paid less than teachers in the local authority schools and even academies and they are fed up.
“They are such a vital part of the education system because they are properly preparing pupils for the world of work and uni.
“It’s completely unfair. They are striking for increased pay, smaller class sizes and a better work-life balance.
“They also want to save the sixth form college sector because the Government is trying to amalgamate them.
“This is a last resort. They have put up with these conditions for years and years and it has just got to the stage where they can’t accept it any more.
“They are being walked over and treated like second-class citizens and it’s just not fair.”
The NEU is asking the education minister to increase funding for education for 16-to-19-year-olds so colleges can address the problems they face.
The union says funding cuts since 2010 have resulted in colleges cutting staff and increasing workload, with the number of employees being reduced by 11 per cent.
A recent announcement of £400m for 16-to-19 education was welcomed by the NEU but the Government was warned it did not come close to addressing the £1.1bn gap that has opened up in the sector in the past nine years.
Bora Oktas, NEU North West regional officer, said: “Teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.
“There is an overwhelming evidence of the impact of teacher working conditions on student achievement and academic growth.
“By increasing staff workload without increasing their pay will only result in unsafe college environments for staff and students.”
The Department for Education said student learning will be disrupted by the strike, which it called “disappointing”.
A spokesperson said: “Strike action disrupts the education of students and damages the reputation of the teaching profession in the eyes of the public, so it is disappointing that the NEU has decided to take strike action in 25 sixth form colleges and 16-19 academies.
“However, we are pleased that the majority of their members have decided strike action is not the best way to address their concerns.
“We are committed to an ongoing dialogue with the NEU to avoid disruptive strike action in the future.”
St John Rigby is the only sixth form college in the borough where enough staff voted for strike action to allow the walk-out to go ahead.