There was a very large, vibrant and well organised picket line outside the main entrance of Hull College on Wednesday.
Along with picket lines at other entrances, it showed the fighting spirit as UCU union members started their strikes over jobs.
The walkout hit Hull College sites in Hull, Harrogate and Goole. It was in response to the threat of the loss of 231 full time equivalent jobs, and cuts in courses. This comes after years of funding cuts and a funding freeze.
Rob Goodfellow is joint branch secretary of the UCU at Hull College. He told Socialist Worker, “This fight is for further education (FE). People are losing life choices.”
UCU branch secretary Dave Langcaster agreed. “The government needs to increase funding for FE,” he told Socialist Worker. “For the last ten years FE had seen cuts in funding followed by a freeze in funding.
“It’s inherently racist and anti-working class—where does it leave future workers and refugees? Personally I think it might take the UCU escalating action. We hope the example of the UCU in higher education escalating pension action will influence the confidence of college staff to take national action.
“We need to link up with other colleges into a joint campaign.”
Staff have already taken a vote of no confidence in the college’s chief executive. And they planned a march for education through Hull starting at Hull College on Saturday. More strikes are set for next Thursday and Friday.
Workers have already won support for their fight from other trade unionists. Pickets from the local FCC dispute and from the RMT picket line, both on strike on the same day, visited and spoke at the Hull College picket line.
The attacks on jobs at the college will slash opportunities for people in the area. As bricklaying lecturer Paul said, “We need skills and people can learn them in FE colleges. But the government is not investing in providing them.”
Julie Kelley is the UCU regional official for Yorkshire and Humberside. She told Socialist Worker that the cuts would hit one in three workers. “Staff feel it’s not going to leave a sustainable college for the people of Hull, Goole and Harrogate,” she said.
“We’re treating this dispute as a campaign of national significance primarily because so much is at stake. This is a vibrant, diverse college. We don’t want future attacks on other colleges that might be affected by financial problems.
“It’s really important that this campaign is won.”