UCU union members across 16 colleges in England are set to hold a two-day strike starting on 28 February. The news means they will join around 40,000 university lecturers who will be on strike that day over pensions.
College lecturers are fighting a below-inflation 1 percent pay offer. Their 48-hour strike will be followed by three days of action if bosses do not make any significant concessions.
Mandy Brown is a UCU rep at Lambeth College in south London and is on the union’s national executive committee. She told Socialist Worker, “We’ve had no pay rise for seven years apart from 0.25 percent that no one really noticed.
“And our pay packets are smaller now because our pension contributions have gone up. But college CEOs are giving themselves big pay packets, so workers know there’s money in the bank.
“Lambeth College has been given £26 million from the Department for Education to encourage a merger. Just £1 million of that would give us a 3 percent pay rise.”
The UCU has described the 1 percent offer as a “kick in the teeth”. It said that college workers have suffered a 23.6 percent real terms pay cut since 2008.
College lecturers voted by 92 percent for strikes on a turnout of 63 percent. The strong vote met the Tories’ 50 percent turnout threshold and shows the scale of anger that exists.
“The Tories’ anti-union laws have spectacularly backfired,” said Mandy. “They have made us more organised than we have ever been before.”
The strike will also take place on the day of a protest for education in London. It has the potential to be huge.
Mandy said there’s a buoyant mood among many college workers. “At Capital City College Group, members passed a vote of no confidence in the CEO,” she said. “He resigned the next day. People feel galvanised and are prepared to fight.”
The colleges set to strike are City and Islington College, College of Haringey Enfield and North East London, Westminster Kingsway, City of Westminster, College of North West London, Hackney, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets, Croydon, Epping Forest, Havering, Lambeth, Richmond-upon-Thames, Sandwell, Sunderland and Sussex Coast College Hastings.