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Date: 2 October 2006

1.4% pay offer plus holiday cut, sparks strike ballot at college

Support staff at James Watt College of Further and Higher Education in Greenock are seeking a ballot for strike action following the breakdown of talks over pay, said their union, UNISON today.

The staff have received a final pay offer of 1.4%, following a claim for £500 or 2.5%. To rub salt into the wound most of the money offered will not be consolidated into their salary, and the college is proposing staff lose 3 days of their annual leave and accept a new package of terms and conditions.

UNISONScotland has agreed to pursue a ballot of 230 members in the college on strike action that will seriously disrupt the college programme up until Christmas.

Robin Taggart, UNISON Inverclyde's Service Conditions Officer said: "It is extremely disappointing that the college have closed the door on further talks towards a fairer settlement for this year. Support staff are amongst the lowest paid employees in the college and they deserve better than this. Without doubt this must be the worst pay offer I have ever experienced and to cut their annual leave entitlement as well, compounds the insult."

The staff affected are technical staff, administrative staff, cleaners, wardens and catering staff. UNISON is highly critical of the College's pay policy which traditionally has been overly generous towards senior management. 20 members of the college's senior management team draw salaries totalling over £1m compared to 340 support staff whose collective salaries total £5m.

Robin Taggart added: "The cost of a 2.5% pay increase for all support staff is around £140,000. Hardly a dent in the college's turnover of nearly £36m. The college principal alone draws a salary of £115,000. The notion that our pay claim is unaffordable is nonsense."

Neil Coyle, Senior UNISON steward at the college says: "People feel angry and insulted. Every year we are reminded of how critical we are to the college and students and then we get presented with a pay offer that most of us thought was a joke. There is a strong desire amongst our members to fight this all of the way."


NOTE for Editors: The ballot will run through October with industrial action likely to start in November.

For Further Information Please Contact: Robin Taggart - Branch Service Conditions Officer: 0780 393 3047(m) 01475 715900(o) Neil Coyle - Senior Steward: 07933 688376 (m)