Merger and pay cut concerns cause strike action
- Credit: Archant
Staff at a college which was rated the top performing sixth form in Suffolk and Norfolk just five months ago took to the picket line this week in the first of six planned days of strike action.
More than 20 teachers at Lowestoft Sixth Form College (L6FC) took strike action on Wednesday over potential restructuring and merger plans.
It comes in response to the proposed L6FC merger with East Coast College (ECC), with 24 members of the NASUWT teaching union at the sixth form college waving flags and protesting outside the college in Rotterdam Road.
With concerns raised over the restructuring plans, a variation to terms and conditions which will negatively impact on teachers' pay and working conditions and potential job loss, the union said further days of strike action have been planned on July 2, July 3, July 10, July 11 and July 12.
A L6FC spokesman said a final decision has not yet been made as to whether the merger will go ahead on August 1.
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David Gartland, principal at L6FC, said: 'It is very disappointing that the NASUWT union feel it necessary to take this action and I hope that they will reconsider in the light of the actual terms of transfer that are being negotiated. If we proceed with the merger, the terms and conditions of existing staff will not change. 'All existing L6FC staff would transfer over to ECC with their existing pay, holiday entitlement and retain their public-sector pensions. There are no redundancies expected as a result of a merger.'
Dan McCarthy, NASUWT national president, joined the protest. He said: 'This strike is about the NASUWT teachers standing up for the rights of the teachers of the Lowestoft community because of the deletion of this L6FC as they are taken over by ECC.
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'The restructuring changes means that they have a potential for a £9,000 pay cut – quality teachers will be lost. The results show this is the top performing sixth form in Suffolk and Norfolk, so if you have got something that works don't break it. What they are doing, its not just teachers, its totally destroying the future for the children of Lowestoft.'
Normal lessons were cancelled and a series of non-compulsory drop in sessions were organised for students instead. East Coast College declined to comment on the strike.
On the picket line
Keith Anderson, regional organiser for NASUWT, said:
'It is not something they take lightly or want to do.
'They would much rather be in that class, but unfortunately they feel they have been left with no other option but to do this over concerns for their future careers and their terms and conditions as the college is merged with ECC. They are so committed to this place, and are part of the community – they are concerned about the future of these young people.'
Tim Delaney, English teacher at L6FC, said: 'This sixth form college has been a success and it has really transformed opportunities in this area.
'From where we were seven years ago, I think the results we got last year – the best results ever seen in this town for 18-year-olds by some margin – shows the potential quality of teaching that will be lost, and that means for the children, and future learning, that their education opportunities will be denied.'
David Bye, chairman of L6FC Corporation, said: 'We understand that staff are inevitably anxious about any changes to this highly successful college.
'The L6FC Corporation is continuing to work closely with all staff and union representatives to reassure colleagues that the proposed merger will not negatively impact on the education and career opportunities of current and future students.
'Having explored several options over the past three years, L6FC Corporation have reached the conclusion that this merger is the only viable way to preserve high quality sixth form college education in the town. The vision for the proposed merger sets out that L6FC will retain a high level of autonomy within the ECC umbrella, which will ensure that we would continue very much as now. The final decision will be made on July 31 once the governing bodies of both organisations have had the opportunity to consider the results of the consultation.'