Lecturers from Blackpool walk out over pay freeze row

Blackpool and The Fylde College staff protest outside in row over pay.  Pictured are Eddie Collett, Darren Bradshaw and Denice Kelly.
Blackpool and The Fylde College staff protest outside in row over pay. Pictured are Eddie Collett, Darren Bradshaw and Denice Kelly.
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Lecturers from Blackpool and The Fylde College went on strike as part of an ongoing row over pay.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) walked out after clashing with the Association of Colleges (AoC), the national employers’ body, over plans for a pay freeze.

Blackpool and the Fylde College staff protest outside in row over pay.  Pictured is Eddie Collett handing out leaflets to students.

Blackpool and the Fylde College staff protest outside in row over pay. Pictured is Eddie Collett handing out leaflets to students.

The union had asked for an extra £1 per hour for its members, but the AoC, which branded the strike ‘disruptive’ said its recommendation reflected colleges’ tight budgets, leading to a vote for industrial action.

Blackpool and The Fylde College’s students are not believed to have been heavily affected, with bosses there insisting lessons remained ‘business as usual’.

The UCU’s Blackpool branch chair, Darren Bradshaw, joined his colleagues on the picket line at the college’s Bispham campus in Ashfield Road from 8am.

He said staff were also striking to highlight their concerns over the government’s upcoming spending review, which Labour said could see 40 per cent of the country’s colleges forced to close.

Members are sick of the employers’ refusal to deal with the real-terms pay cuts that have blighted the sector

The maths teacher, who moved to the resort from London, said: “Our issue is not with the college, it’s with the government.

“It was over pay yesterday but it’s also about the future of further education. We are looking at a huge amount of job losses all over the country.”

The UCU’s picket line outside the college is small, with only three members waving placards and speaking to passers-by.

However, the union estimated around 20,000 members of staff at 207 colleges went on strike and took part in rallies across the country.

Mr Bradshaw added: “We call ourselves the Cinderella part of education but we’ve been in the news a bit more recently, so we have got a voice.”

General secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “Members are sick of the employers’ refusal to deal with the real-terms pay cuts that have blighted the sector.

“For the Association of Colleges to recommend that all their members freeze staff pay this year was a real insult.

“Members who voted gave a clear mandate for strike action and we took that action tomorrow. We hope employers will come back to the table.”

A UCU ballot showed 74 per cent support for strikes.

Mark Whitworth, director of employment policy and services at the AoC, said: “Strikes are very disruptive for colleges and more importantly for students.

“There is a willingness from the employers’ side to work together.

“The pay recommendation reflects the stringent financial circumstances in the sector and the significant external pressures on college pay bills.

“Our position reflects the feedback we had from our members.”

The UCU’s further education committee agreed for members to strike when they met on October 17.

All members were asked to join pickets and attend local events or the national rally in London, to ‘send the strongest and loudest message possible’.