Bolton College staff took to the picket line this morning demanding a pay rise as many  struggle with the basics amid the rise in the cost-of-living.

Bolton’s University and College Union (UCU) Chair, and biology teacher at the college, Suzanne Toole, told The Bolton News that members had been offered a 6.5 per cent pay rise, which she said was not enough given the rising costs.The Bolton News: Suzanne Toole and Laura O'HareSuzanne Toole and Laura O'Hare (Image: Newsquest)

Suzanne also explained that they were also under immense pressure, with “excessive workloads” where staff felt as though they were “drowning”.

She says that as a result, the students are not getting the best versions of them because of how “exhausted” and “overworked” they are, given that they do "considerably more contact hours" than other colleges.

She said: “We have been consistently underfunded.

“Further education as a whole has been consistently underfunded for many years.

“We have had a 35 per cent real term pay cut.

@theboltonnews Staff at #Bolton College are continuing to #strike ♬ original sound - The Bolton News

“Bolton College is one of the lowest paid colleges in the North West.

“Last year we got a six per cent pay rise that we had to fight for.

“This year the college has been given an extra five per cent funding from the Government, and yet they have only given us a 6.5 per cent pay rise.

“So, that means they’ve only accounted for a1.5 per cent pay rise in the middle of a cost -of-living-crisis.

“It’s not good enough.

The Bolton News: “They are going to give us a 3.5 per cent in December, and the other three per cent is coming in April,

“Now that’s not going to happen.

“We know that’s going to get swallowed up immediately by the cost-of-living crisis, and pay hikes, with gas and electric going up.

“So, effectively it’s more like a 3.5 per cent pay rise, which is not going to pay these people’s bills.”

Senior lecturer for English for Speakers of Other Languages, Laura O’Hare says that staff are really struggling when it comes to the essentials, and it is one reason why some are moving to other colleges.

She said: “Teachers work very hard as we all know.

“Further education is a very demanding area to work in.

“We all put 110 per cent in, and we certainly don’t do it for the money.

“And the pay that we have been offered just isn’t enough, with the cost of living going up every year.

The Bolton News: “We’re struggling as individuals, especially people like me who live on their own.

“People are struggling to put fuel in their car and go to work and it’s just everyday things that are costing more.

“Families make cutbacks when times are hard, and you can only cut back so far before you have to take a stand and say, actually we’ve worked really hard to be where we are today as lecturers and I think we deserve fair pay in line with other colleges.

“We’re hoping to make a difference and hoping that management will listen to a cry for help.”

Another issue that Suzanne raised was that the pay rise offered was for all staff on a range of salaries, which she says is “massively unfair”.

The University and College Union (UCU) called off today’s (Tuesday November 14) strike action at three more colleges after members received last-minute pay offers, meaning 35 colleges have now accepted pay offers. 

This now leaves just eight colleges facing strike action today, tomorrow and Thursday, including Bolton College.

A spokesperson for the college said: “The UCU are holding a three-day strike concerning levels of pay. 

"The strike has coincided with industrial action taken at other colleges in the UK.

"College management recognises and sympathises with the frustration experienced by lecturing staff, however, the 15 per cent pay rise demanded by UCU would present many colleges with a significant budgetary challenge and, whilst this college sympathises with the union's position on general pay levels across our sector, it is difficult to see how this level of increase could be affordable and sustainable.

"We have put forward a pay increase of 6.5 per cent for 2023/24 and we believe this is at a level we can afford and does go some way in recognition of the hard work and contributions made by our staff.

"UCU have rejected this offer.

"We have considered carefully the impact that reduced staffing might have on teaching and learning, but it is important that our students, where they can, are able to attend their classes and therefore the college will remain open over the three days (November 14,15, and 16).

"Classes are expected to run as normal. 

"However, where a decision is taken to cancel a class due to the absence of a lecturer then learners will be contacted. 

"The college apologises in advance for any inconvenience this may cause our students."

Strike action has been called off at Hugh Baird in Liverpool and Heart of Yorkshire Education Trust after members voted to accept deals that included a pay offer of 6.5 per cent and national bargaining commitments.

Strike action at Bath College has also been suspended while members vote whether to accept a 6.5 per cent offer. 

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