SOME 25 Further Education colleges came out on strike across London on Thursday of last week over London weighting. Members of the Natfhe lecturers' union are demanding £4,000 London weighting.
After a 77 percent vote in favour of action on a 35 percent turnout, some feared that the strike would be passive and patchy. However, at a lobby and rally at parliament organised by the London Region of Natfhe, delegate after delegate reported that the strike was the most successful for years.
Picket lines were bigger than normal and also had new teaching staff on them. Delegates said that teaching staff on hourly contracts did not cross the picket lines, and many of them joined the union. In an education sector where 60 percent of staff are on part time contracts-the second most casualised workforce in Britain-this is a significant development.
At City and Islington College management shut down the site. This was partly due to the strength of feeling over the issue and also reflected college management's support for the claim. They currently find it difficult to hold on to staff.
Lecturers at Hammersmith and West London report that they held a very successful strike with 60 people on the picket line. They also collected £225 for striking Scottish nursery nurses.
Neil Gerrard MP spoke at the Natfhe rally and told delegates that he would be putting in an early day motion to parliament in support of the claim. Leaders of the NASUWT, Unison, AUT and the CWU were also on the platform. They all spoke about the need for a united campaign over London weighting. Barry Lovejoy, the National negotiator for Natfhe, said, "We are in for the long haul. It could take up to four years to win."
However, delegates did not share his pessimistic timetable. Many delegates reported that Unison members in colleges were in disbelief that they had not been called out alongside Natfhe. Speakers who argued that the next strike should involve all Unison members received the best response.