Socialist Worker

College workers reject bosses’ money lies and strike to demand higher pay

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2597

Strikers were in high spirits at Lambeth College in south London

Strikers were in high spirits at Lambeth College in south London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Workers across six further education colleges began a three-day strike on Tuesday in an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

The strikes hit City and Islington, Westminster Kingsway, Croydon, Lambeth, Sandwell and the College of Haringey and North East London.

UCU union members at Havering college began a two-day walkout on the same day.

Workers are fighting a 1 percent pay offer and also have local demands over pay and conditions too.

At Sandwell College in the West Midlands, workers have demanded a 6.9 percent rise.

UCU equalities rep Dom told Socialist Worker, “We’re not backing down.

“We deserve what we’re asking for and we’re out to win.”

UCU branch secretary Dave added, “Our picket line was bigger than during the last strike.

“Since the dispute our membership has grown by 30 percent. “It’s really caught fire.”

UCU members at Lambeth College in south London have demanded 9.9 percent after being denied any rise for nine years. UCU branch secretary Mandy told Socialist Worker, “We’ve been told that £5 million has been made available for a merger, but hasn’t been allocated for anything.

“It would cost just £1.5 million to give all staff the rise we are demanding.”

Striker Julia added, “The money’s there. They need to prioritise teachers and education.”

Like many, Julia said that the lack of a rise was bad for students. “It just shows how completely undervalued further education is,” she said. “A lot of our students had a rough experience of school.

“Staff really put in the effort to help those young people, and adults who return to education. Bosses are devaluing what staff are doing.”

Workers at three colleges that were set to strike—Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Redbridge —suspended action after the offer of a new deal.

But a significant number argued to keep striking to win more, and workers could join action in the future.

Hull College fight for jobs

UCU union members at Hull College are balloting for strikes to stop job cuts.

Bosses want to slash 231 posts at the college—and have threatened to dismiss workers who refuse to sign up to new contracts.

When UCU members at Lambeth College in south London faced similar attacks in 2014, they held two all-out strikes in response. The action forced bosses to retreat on some of their attacks and promise that a new, worse contract would not be imposed on existing staff.

The attacks in east Yorkshire affect workers at all three college sites in Hull, Goole and Harrogate. The UCU said that, if the cuts go through, the college will lose around a third of its workforce.

The ballot ends on 18 April.

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