Socialist Worker

70,000 to strike next Tuesday

Issue No. 1824

ANGER OVER pay is driving more and more workers to take action. The Bank of England is demanding that public sector pay rises are limited to an average 4 percent. This 'average' includes vast sums handed out to overpaid managers and fat cat executives.

The result is that workers doing vital jobs get offered even less than the bankers' 'average'. In further education colleges, for example, many staff are being told they must settle for as little as 2.3 percent. It is no wonder some 70,000 workers in 270 of these colleges across England and Wales will be on strike on Tuesday.

Caretakers and lecturers will be united on the picket line. For the first time Unison, which represents college support staff, the lecturers' Natfhe union and the traditionally 'moderate' ATL teaching union are striking on the same day. The following week, on Thursday 14 November, all workers in London's universities are to strike.

Again support staff and lecturers will take action together. A week later, on Tuesday 26 November, all workers in London's schools and councils could strike together over pay. These strikes show how the mood over pay can become infectious.

Chiefs grab 'modest' £5,000

COLLEGE bosses grabbed whacking pay rises last year. The average salary for a college principal rose to £70,000. Sue Dutton, deputy chief executive of the Association of Colleges bosses' club, claimed this was a 'modest' 4.5 percent. A 4.5 percent rise for some college bosses means an extra £5,625. That's half the annual wage of some support workers.

Further dates to follow

TENS OF thousands of education workers across London are to strike together over the London weighting allowance some get for the extra costs of living and working in the capital. For the first time workers in all London universities will strike on 14 November.

Then on 26 November teachers and support staff in the capital's schools could be out together, along with all London's council workers. The university strike will unite workers in 'old' universities that existed before 1992, and those in 'new' universities which used to be called polytechnics.

In the schools members of both the NASUWT and NUT teachers' unions have been balloting to strike, with the result due this week. Unison union members in council workplaces across London decided last week that they too will strike on that day.

Unity a real step forward

FURTHER education colleges have become more and more like factories since they were 'incorporated' nine years ago. Incorporation means privatisation. Colleges became businesses run for profit. College bosses cram students into courses that management then ditch the next year if they are not profitable.

They have also driven through varied pay and conditions for workers across England and Wales. Management in some colleges have imposed a 3.5 percent pay rise on staff, some are sticking to a 2.3 percent offer made in July, and others have not reached any pay deal at all.

Votes by workers for action against this have been overwhelming. Geoff Brown, a lecturer at the MANCAT college in Manchester, said, 'We are planning a joint rally with the different unions on the strike day. 'It is a real step forward. The low paid support workers in the colleges have a lot of power. They control the colleges. They lock it up. They clean it. 'Striking together we can make a difference.'

Rotten reality in the colleges

LONG HOURS, rotten pay and casual labour. That's the reality for workers inside today's further education (FE) colleges. Almost 60 percent of support workers in the colleges get less than £13,000 a year. They include librarians, IT specialists, technicians, admin staff, cleaners and canteen staff. Some are on as little as £10,500 a year.

Anger among college lecturers over their pay and conditions sparked a two-day strike in May. Two thirds of colleges pay a maximum of £17,000 to some lecturers. Many are only offered part time or temporary contracts. Like casual workers everywhere they can end up going from one contract to another.

Phil Naylor, a part time lecturer at the College of North East London, explained, 'We have to do more and more paperwork, which we don't get paid for, and class sizes have increased.' Lecturers on full time contracts can see their pay and conditions being eaten away. Staff who feel underpaid and overworked cannot give the 3.5 million students who go through FE colleges the education they deserve.

Nurses' demands

NURSES ARE another group of workers who have now taken up the fight over pay. They put in a demand for a 15 percent rise last month. Newly qualified nurses start on a salary of just £16,005 a year.

A nurse has to work for three years to get £17,760. A police officer at the same stage will be on £22,992.

'Minimum means poverty' - CBI man

THE MINIMUM wage of £4.20 an hour means people are living on the edge of society. That admission comes from, of all people, Adair Turner. He was director general of the bosses' CBI club when it opposed the minimum wage.

Now he is chair of the Low Pay Commission, after being appointed to that job by New Labour. Turner admitted, 'You become aware of people whose standard of living puts them on the margins of society in London.'

The Low Pay Commission is now reviewing the rate of the minimum wage. It went up by just 10p in September. Unison wants a minimum of £6 an hour.

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Sat 2 Nov 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1824
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