Lecturers in further education colleges in the UCU union received ballot papers this week for a strike over pay and conditions. Our claim this year is for 6 percent or £1,500.
This includes a catch up for the 2006-7 pay round when we were offered 2.55 percent – in effect a pay cut – which we have yet to formally settle on.
The employers’ organisation has said that it will not even meet our negotiators to discuss this year’s claim until May.
Pay is not the only issue facing lecturers. There is anger over colleges being used as a testbed for market-led policies in education, spiralling workloads, soaring paperwork and bullying bosses.
Our pay campaign can gain a real momentum, as our ballot and proposed initial day of strike action on 24 April has been timed to be co-ordinated with the ballot taking place among NUT teachers’ union members.
The prospect of taking joint action has been received with enthusiasm by members.
UCU has launched a vigorous campaign to get the vote out, involving mass leafleting, joint rallies with the NUT, and a membership drive.
However we can’t be complacent. Many of our members have been through pay campaigns before with mixed results. In many colleges, particularly in rural areas, union organisation is not that strong.
A lively campaign for a Yes vote can help the union rebuild and give activists and members the confidence to fight.
The ballot period also coincides with the Easter holiday break in many colleges.
The ballot remains open until 14 April and activists need to get round all the workrooms in every department to make sure members have voted .
We have the potential for a vibrant campaign in which UCU members could be taking joint strike action with the NUT and other public sector unions in dispute over pay.