Employees at Cardiff and Vale College have complained that low wages mean they cannot afford to catch the bus to work and they are forced to walk in the rain. These real stories of in-work poverty come as Further Education (FE) college staff across Wales vote whether to accept an offer to increase wages by one per cent.
UNISON says the offer from employers Colegau Cymru goes no way to helping workers who are struggling after years of poor pay increases. It is recommending staff reject the offer. A vote to reject is likely to trigger an automatic ballot for strike action. Sister unions, UCU, UCAC, NASUWT, GMB and NEU are also consulting their members.
Joanne Macmillan, UNISON rep at Cardiff and Vale College said,
“My income hasn’t kept up with the rise in basic costs I face and the squeeze on our pay means colleagues are working second or even third jobs. We are making choices such as walking to save on bus fares, or skipping lunch so we can afford to buy a present so our children can go to their friend’s birthday party.
“No one works in education for the money, we love our jobs and make a difference to students’ lives. We do not consider industrial action lightly. We are here because we have been forced into it by rising costs and wages that don’t keep up.
“As well as educating our young people and giving them the skills to get well-paid jobs, colleges should be offering fairly-paid jobs to their own staff too.”
Rachel Price, UNISON Cymru Wales lead officer for Further Education said,
“Staff in Further Education are in a desperate situation, struggling to pay for the basics in life: food, bills and the rent. Employees are working harder than ever before yet over the last nine years college pay has fallen in real terms. When the cost of living is rising at 3.4 per cent in July, an offer to increase pay by just one per cent is measly. It’s effectively another pay cut for FE workers. Above-inflation pay rises are needed to ensure that colleges can continue to recruit and retain staff. UNISON recommends staff reject the pay offer.”
The trade unions are calling for a significantly improved offer and for it to be fully-funded by Welsh government given the important contribution FE makes towards Welsh government’s economic objectives.
Notes for editors
- UNISON’s ballot opened on 1 October and closes on Friday 19 October 2018
- Colegau Cymru rejected the joint trade unions’ pay claim for a rise of 7.5% or £1,500, instead making a final offer of 1%. The unions said that the employers’ offer would do nothing to address the falling value of staff pay in further education, and that above-inflation pay rises are needed to ensure colleges can continue to recruit and retain staff.
Alastair Gittins, UNISON Press Officer on 07816 538397