THOUSANDS OF lecturers in further education (FE) colleges across England and Wales are balloting for strikes, and expect to be holding a first one-day strike on 22 May.
The fight is over pay, and lecturers say there is solid support for a strike. A lecturer at Bradford College says, "Our meeting about the ballot last week was great. People who are not reps were taking away literature and stickers to give out.
"Lecturers have fallen way behind teachers in terms of pay. We are at least 2,000 a year worse off than teachers, if not more. People know that the current teacher shortage means that people are going into schools and not FE, so it is getting difficult to get new staff in FE colleges."
A lecturer at Basildon College in Essex agrees: "People are more confident than they were six months ago. People know it is easy to get a job at the minute." The lecturers' NATFHE union, wants a flat rate increase of 3,000 a year.
"Voting yes in the ballot is not an issue," says a London lecturer. "Everybody is voting yes. People see Blair and management as the same thing and they are sick with them both in many, many ways-sick of the pressure, sick of the workload, sick of broken promises."
LECTURERS AT Norwich City College were to strike on Tuesday 1 May demanding that management withdraws restructuring plans which will mean compulsory redundancies, low paid posts and cuts to courses.
These changes would hit the quality of education for the people of Norwich. Andy Cairns, joint branch secretary of the lecturers' NATFHE union, said, "Senior management have attempted in the press to downplay the effects of their plans, claiming that 'only' 50 staff will lose their jobs. "This both hides the real impact and is a real insult to staff threatened with redundancies."
Sally Phillips, the other joint branch secretary, adds, "Students do not support these plans. Over 3,000 Norfolk residents have also signed our petition." Lecturers also planned a protest march on Saturday 5 May from their college to the local May Day rally.
AT ONE of the biggest union meetings in years around 70 lecturers at Waltham Forest College in east London voted unanimously to ballot for strike action. The vote is a sign of lecturers' determination to fight downsizing attacks and cuts launched by the new principal.
The threat of up to 70 redundancies and cuts to courses follows a financial crisis and deficit of more than 1 million. Lecturers now plan a protest march on Saturday 12 May in Walthamstow.
- Messages of support and march details: NATFHE branch chair Tony Sullivan, e-mail [email protected]