Lecturers, librarians, technicians, cleaners and caretakers who belong to Unison and the University and College Union (UCU) are among those taking part in the one-day action.
Unison members have been on a picket line outside West Cheshire College’s Ellesmere Port campus and the union understands there is a picket outside the Handbridge site as well.
The timing could not be worse for the college as management have told strikers that regulatory body Ofsted is in college today. This follows a short-notice Ofsted inspection last September which branded the college ‘inadequate’, down from ‘good’ only five years ago.
Adding to their woes is that college principal Nigel Davies is ‘currently off sick’. Governors have met to consider bringing in interim management support but ‘no decision’ has so far been taken, according to the college’s public relations team.
And the future of the college’s state-of-the-art Handbridge campus still hangs in the balance even though it only opened five years ago.
Unison area organiser David McKnight, speaking from the Ellesmere Port picket line, said: “Further education staff deserve fair pay. There’s been a real term pay cut of 17% since 2009. With average pay settlements coming in around 2% no pay rise this year will make it even harder for FE colleges to hold onto their staff.
“Blame for the dispute can be laid firmly at the government’s door. Cuts to FE have put colleges in a difficult financial position. The employers should get back around the negotiating table and put a fair offer to hard working college staff.”
He said there had been ‘great support’ from members of the public driving past with pickets ‘getting lots of beeps’.
Mr McKnight said the strike would inevitably impact on lessons, adding: “We think a lot of people have not come into work and have supported the strike.”
The college has not commented on the strike.