This Thursday will see tens of thousands of lecturers in further education colleges walk out, joining the 250,000 teachers and 100,000 civil service workers in the biggest show of opposition over pay for many years.
For us in the UCU lecturers’ union, the day will mark the start of a joint campaign against Gordon Brown’s demand that we pay for the financial crisis.
We’ve found it really easy to convince colleagues to join the action. Recruitment to the UCU in colleges is up 40 percent on this time last year.
Once we spell out the price rises we are supposed to endure – in fuel, utilities, mortgages, food, council tax and so on – and compare them with the measly offer of 2.55 percent we got last year, then the point is made.
Most UCU members will know that the headline rates of inflation are huge underestimates for most families. We’re increasingly feeling the pinch and more and more of our members know we have to fight back.
We want to defend our incomes, but we also want to defend education against New Labour’s failing policies and its devotion to the market agenda. There is also a strong desire for unity with other public sector workers.
Our action this week is the start of a fightback on pay – but also about much more than pay. The united action we will see this week needs to be repeated in the months ahead to win the battle against Brown’s cutbacks.