College head pledges to give full day’s pay to staff who walk out

051048-65_south 4/3/05 msj (cc)''Principal of South Downs College, Michael Oakes. The college has recently had a very good Ofsted report.''PICTURE: MATT SCOTT-JOYNT (051048-65)
051048-65_south 4/3/05 msj (cc)''Principal of South Downs College, Michael Oakes. The college has recently had a very good Ofsted report.''PICTURE: MATT SCOTT-JOYNT (051048-65)
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A COLLEGE principal who supports striking teachers has pledged to pay a full day’s wages to any member of staff who walks out today.

Michael Oakes, principal of South Downs College in Waterlooville, says he refuses to ‘penalise’ hard-working staff who join today’s national walk-outs in protest at the government’s proposed changes to their pensions.

While most public sector workers are sacrificing a day’s pay for withholding labour, their counterparts and even non-union members at South Downs will still be paid.

Mr Oakes said: ‘I have a lot of sympathy with my staff on this and I respect their personal decision to go out on strike.

‘Staff here care very genuinely about students and during the course of the year they will make up any lost time – they are highly professional people.

‘In my view, striking is not about whether or not anyone misses a day’s wages.

‘The issue is the principle of it, and I certainly won’t penalise my staff for that.’

Mr Oakes’ daily wage bill is an estimated £100,000 but it is not know how many staff will walk out.

Full and part-time day classes have been cancelled at the college, as they have at schools across the region.

Mr Oakes added: ‘I’d like to hear an apology from some of the bankers who got us into this position.

‘Now I’ve got very hard-working staff who are going to have quite different pensions from the ones they thought they would have, and above all the worst impact is making them work so many years which will have a bad effect on the students.

‘You will have crotchety old teachers coming in to work because they have to – while there are qualified younger teachers who can’t get a job. It’s perverse.’

Sion Reynolds, secretary of NASUWT which is currently the largest teaching union in the region, said he found Mr Oakes’ offer ‘quite odd’.

But he added: ‘I’ve got no problem with what he’s doing.

‘If his staff are coming out on the day in support of the strike that’s all that matters.’

Mr Reynolds added: ‘Losing a day’s wages is infinitesimal compared to what the government has already fleeced us by changing the pension index.’