College workers held a national day of protests on Wednesday of this week to demand fair pay. Workers in six trade unions – the UCU, Unison, GMB, Unite, ATL and ACM – have rejected an initial below-inflation offer of 2.5 percent.
The unions have submitted a joint claim for 6 percent or £1,500, whichever is the greater. The claim covers 250,000 further education workers in England, including lecturers, learning support staff, cleaners, managers, caterers, librarians, security and lab technicians, and would establish a £7.38 an hour minimum wage.
This follows the fantastic joint public sector strike on 24 April, when over 400,000 teachers, lecturers and civil service workers struck against their below-inflation pay offers.
UCU union representatives were due to meet the employer on Thursday, and UCU members in London will hold a one-day strike on Monday 9 June if they do not receive a satisfactory offer. This is the day of a TUC lobby of parliament over pay.
Protests and rallies took place in a number of cities, including several sites across London, Blackburn, Manchester, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol and Sunderland.
Around 40 college staff in the UCU and Unison unions held a protest at City & Islington college in London and leafleted outside the college for 9 June.
More than 50 lecturers and support staff joined a lunchtime protest at Hackney college chanting “No ifs, no buts, no redundancies, no cuts”. Dean Strachan, UCU assistant branch secretary, asked, “Where the hell has Gordon Brown got this 2.5 percent inflation figure from? Every time I go to the supermarket, my shopping bill goes up.”
He added that the protest was also against 29 redundancies planned at the college. “Special needs teachers have had their redundancy notices already, essential support staff are going from four days to three days a week and lecturers in construction trades are also threatened,” he said.
Louise Manuell, a support worker who has had her hours cut, told of how the cuts in admin staff had affected students. “Even now, students are complaining that their problems are not being addressed. We do our best but the cuts mean that helping students with benefit claims get delayed and of course they frustrated.”
Protestors marched around the college displaying a tray of monkey nuts – “Nuts to Cuts, We Don’t want peanuts” – and talked about how they looked forward to the day of action on 9 June.
Over 50 staff at City College Norwich took part in a lunchtime walkout organised by the UCU and Unison unions.
Sue Sabec, a UCU representative at the college, said, “It is crazy that at a time when there fewer people are going into teaching posts, that they are doing this to teacher’s and lecturer’s wages.”
Samina Grant, a Unison representative at the college, said, “The demonstration aims to show the strength of support we have for the cause and to make the authorities sit and up realise the strength of feeling among people here.”
Around 80 workers from the UCU and Unison unions took part in a “protest picnic” at Blackburn college. Branch secretary, politics tutor Ashley Whalley, added, “There is a misconception that tutors earn a fortune, and it’s just not true. We have some who are having to claim working family tax credits to make ends meet despite working long hours.”
College workers also held a lunchtime protest at Sunderland college. Chris Fabby, joint trade union side secretary and Unison national officer in Wearside, said, “After years of below inflation pay awards, it is high time our members’ hard work was valued accordingly.
“Our members deserve a fair deal and we are determined to get it for them.”