Strike Action at Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth I College: Discussions
In March 2018, Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth 1st Sixth Form College and Regent College merged under the WQE name. This means that some staff are now employed under WQE terms and conditions while others are employed under old Regent College conditions. Clearly, policies need harmonising and the NEU's aim is to ensure that staff's terms and conditions are harmonised up rather than down.
In September, management at WQE produced the first draft of a Reorganisation Policy. This included the procedure to be used in the event of a restructuring of posts within the college, as well as arrangements should redundancies be proposed. The first draft of the proposed policy suggested using statutory rather than actual pay (albeit enhanced by 20%) and salary safeguarding for only six months rather than three years.
This was rejected by NEU members and, despite a revised offer of statutory plus 50% and twelve months safeguarding, nearly 80 members met on 9th November to vote for industrial action unless the proposal was withdrawn. The decision to reject the proposal was shared with The Principal and members were balloted over whether to take strike action.
Overwhelming support for industrial action saw all 110 members take strike action on 6th, 13th and 14th February, with a further three days planned for March. Members were really grateful for the support from Hannah Packham and Ian Marrey, from NEU East Midlands Regional Office, and also from Midlands TUC with Regional Secretary Lee Barron joining the pickets and speaking to members afterwards.
Following the strike action, and discussions with ACAS in March, management at WQE agreed with NEU demands that all existing staff at the merged college should have three years salary safeguarding in the event of a restructure and payments based on actual salary with no cap, in the event of redundancies. This retained the previous terms for the staff from the original WQE College and improved the terms for legacy staff from Regent College. Members were emboldened by messages of support from NEU groups and individuals across the country, including from Northampton NEU District's AGM, pictured below.
The discussions going forward will involve the College's JNC negotiating policies for newly appointed staff which aim to retain the best terms from the two previous colleges. Particular credit needs to be given to Samantha Lane, Phil Irving and Hardeep Kang, the workplace reps at the two sites, for all the work they did mobilising members and leading discussions with management. Also, thank you to all the members at the college who supported the action throughout.