Socialist Worker

Why should Scottish FE college workers waste time voting on ‘not a penny more’?

Issue No. 2529

FE college workers in Glasgow during a previous strike

FE college workers in Glasgow during a previous strike (Pic: Duncan Brown)

Unison union officials suspended a national walkout of Scottish FE college support workers, set for Wednesday, to ballot workers on an offer they “strongly recommend” rejecting.

The workers are fighting for the same flat rate £450 pay rise given to lecturing staff. The strike would have been the third in as many months.

The divisive new offer gives a 1.5 percent pay rise to all support staff earning £22,000 or more a year, and £400 to those earning less than £22,000. It would mean some earning just over the threshold getting less than £400 and some on higher pay getting more than £400.

Instead of wasting time with another ballot, the union should have escalated the strikes to focus the employers’ minds. As Unison said, the talks with bosses “did not produce a penny more for most of our members”—so why even put it to a ballot?

Officials have a clear mandate to win the same pay rise as lecturers. They should use it.

Free schools’ waste of cash

The cost of failing free schools is rising, according to Department for Education (DfE) figures.

The government has spent nearly £2 million on free schools that failed to open since 2011.

Last year was the most expensive year so far.

Some £700,000 was spent on five free schools that didn’t open.

Free schools are a way for the government to undermine state education and open schools to the market and privatisation.

They receive public funding but are run privately. The government gives grants to trusts that intend to open a free school.

But the funding can’t be reclaimed if a free school project is cancelled before opening, as long as it has been spent according to DfE rules.

The Tories set a target of 500 new free schools opening between May last year and May 2020.

Toby Young, who heads the New Schools Network charity that lobbies for more free schools, wants the figure to be even higher.

Labour shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said money is “being wasted on an ideological Tory obsession”.

Privatisation opens third front in Glasgow council battle

Hundreds of Glasgow IT workers in the Unison union have delivered a 96 percent vote to strike against the Labour-run council’s plan to privatise their jobs.

Labour councillors recently voted to “externalise” the council’s IT services, which has fuelled fears of future attacks on pay and conditions.

Industrial action could be launched within a fortnight.

Hundreds of other council workers are fighting shoddy pay practices at Labour’s “arm’s length” council-run firms Community Safety Glasgow (CSG) and Cordia.

CSG staff walked out for four days of action last weekend. Bosses refuse to pay them the same shift payments as council employees in similar roles.

Cordia janitors, who have struck for nearly 30 days this year, announced a two-week strike from next Monday.

It came after bosses announced a plan that could slash the number of janitors in the city by up to a quarter.

Janitors demand payments for dirty and demanding work. These are payments council employees get for similar roles.

It’s time the union brought these fights together to maximise their impact.

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