Some employees at Merthyr Tydfil College have complained that low wages leave them struggling to pay their rent each month and others have been forced to take second jobs to pay the bills. 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.
Anna Williams-Price, UNISON rep at Merthyr Tydfil College said,
“A one per cent pay increase doesn’t recognise the hard work I do in the college. Over the last couple of years, some colleagues have been struggling to pay the rent and others have been forced to take second jobs to make ends meet.
“Look at the performance of Merthyr Tydfil College, A Level results have gone from strength to strength. The role of staff in making the college a success and improving the student experience needs to be recognised. Our salaries just don’t reflect that. The college is a big employer locally but it doesn’t pay decent wages. That’s not a good example to the young people we’re educating.
“The trade unions are calling on staff to make their voices heard and let their employer know what they think of the offer.”
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