Massive strike action at a South West London college has been suspended after government conciliation service ACAS stepped in to try to resolve the dispute.

 The University and College Union (UCU) has urged Richmond upon Thames College to “seize this opportunity” to resolve the row over teachers’ annual leave and warned there may be future action if talks fail.

UCU members who work as teachers at the college first walked out in May after management revealed plans to slash their holiday from 64 days to 56 days, including bank holidays. 

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Richmond upon Thames College. Credit: Google MapsRichmond upon Thames College. Credit: Google Maps

The union has blasted proposals to “fire and rehire” staff by dismissing them and making them reapply for their jobs on new contracts with reduced annual leave.

Teachers were set to kick off fresh 14-day strike action from today (August 22) to September 9, excluding the bank holiday on August 29. But they have called off this week’s strike, which would have affected the enrolment of new students at the college, in a bid to reach a deal.

The union is holding talks with college management through ACAS while the action is suspended, but the strike is still set to go ahead from August 30 to September 9.

The college said a “significant majority” of teachers have signed up to the new contracts and that it welcomes this week’s opportunity to try to reach an agreement with the union.

It claimed staff will see an “increase” in their salary due to being compensated “fully” for the reduction in holiday allowance.

Richmond and Twickenham Times: UCU members rally outside Richmond upon Thames College on 23 May. Credit: UCUUCU members rally outside Richmond upon Thames College on 23 May. Credit: UCU

A statement from UCU said: “Our branch at Richmond upon Thames College have agreed to suspend planned strike action next week which would have affected the enrolment of new students at the college in order to facilitate a resolution to the dispute through ACAS talks.

"This is a remarkable show of goodwill from committed staff facing the threat of fire and rehire, so it’s crucial that RUTC senior management seize this opportunity to work with us to resolve the dispute.

“UCU members have always been prepared to work with the employer to reach a fair and just negotiated settlement, but industrial action short of a strike continues and we cannot rule out further strike action in the coming weeks if talks are unsuccessful.”

A spokesperson for Richmond upon Thames College said: “Richmond upon Thames College (RuTC) management has been signalling its genuine desire to engage in meaningful negotiations with UCU since the start of the consultation process in March 2022.

"Our priority from the outset has been to reach a fair agreement regarding necessary teaching contract changes which support improvements in the learning experience for our students and bring pay and holiday in line with other colleges.

“A significant majority of teaching staff have signed up to the new contracts, recognising that the new offer is a fair one that compensates staff fully for the reduction in annual leave and thereby increases their salary during a time of cost-of-living rises.

"RuTC continues to welcome the opportunity to try to reach a resolution to the dispute with UCU over the next few days and we recognise the commitment to engaging in further talks that UCU have now demonstrated by their withdrawal of this week’s planned strike action.”