COLLEGE staff are joining a national strike against employers refusing to improve pay offer.

Employees of Sparsholt College in Winchester are among staff at 29 colleges in England joining the wave of industrial action sweeping the country.

The college also has a campus in Andover.

Huge numbers voted in favour of strike action, the University and College Union (UCU) has announced.

READ MORE: Sparsholt College looks to strike

The ballot result came after the employers refused to improve a pay offer of 2.5 per cent in negotiations.

The result, in which 89.9 per cent of UCU members voted YES to strike action on an overall turnout of 57.9 per cent, is the biggest mandate for industrial action across English further education colleges since the 50 per cent turnout threshold was brought into force in 2016.

The 29 colleges will also be joined by four others in the North West and six across London that were balloted separately, bringing the total number of colleges set to be hit by action to 39.

The union is demanding the colleges increase pay to meet the cost of living crisis.

Employer body – the Association of Colleges (AoC) – has recommended a pay rise by 2.5 per cent despite inflation hitting 11.7 per cent, UCU said.

A spokesperson said: “Staff pay has now fallen 35 per cent behind inflation since 2009 after a series of below inflation pay offers. In pay scales drawn up by the AoC, unqualified teachers can earn as little as £21,000 with qualified teachers starting on less than £26,000. Meanwhile, some college bosses earn over £200,000.

“This month a UCU report showed that the vast majority of college staff are financially insecure, impacting the mental health of more than eight in 10 with many being forced to skip meals and restrict hot water use to save money.  Seven in 10 said they would leave the sector unless pay and working conditions improve.

“The Department for Education (DfE) has announced £1.6bn in extra funding for further education and UCU estimates that colleges already have an additional £400m that is available to spend on staff compared with 2019-20.”

Strike action at a number of colleges has been called off after employers made improved pay offers of up to 9 per cent.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Today, college staff have shown that they are sick and tired of falling pay and have voted overwhelmingly for strike action after employers offered an insulting 2.5 per cent uplift in pay.

“College workers have had their pay held down so long that the vast majority now face financial insecurity. Yet as the cost of living crisis bites employers want their staff to take a further hit with more below inflation pay rises. This is completely unacceptable and shows exactly why many staff are voting with their feet and choosing to leave the sector altogether.

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“After receiving increased funding from government, colleges now have the money to begin properly paying their staff - and they must do so to avoid disruption when the new academic year begins in September.”

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