Socialist Worker

College workers win above-inflation pay rise after eight days of strikes

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2632

Pickets at Westminster Kingway College in May - workers there have won above-inflation rises following the walkouts

Pickets at Westminster Kingway College in May - workers there have won above-inflation rises following the walkouts (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Workers at three London colleges have won above-inflation pay rises following strikes. And the deal will see the lowest-paid staff benefit the most.

The news comes as workers across six colleges prepare for a two-day strike over pay next week.

Workers at the Capital City College Group who are paid less than £55,000 a year will receive a 5 percent rise. Part-time staff, including those on hourly-paid contracts, will receive the same rise pro rata.

Senior management earning between £55,000 and £76,000 will get a 3 percent rise. Those paid more than £76,000 will get nothing.

The deal, which affects more than 1,700 staff, will be backdated to September and workers will receive it before Christmas.

The group includes City and Islington College, The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London and Westminster Kingsway College. The UCU and Unison unions both backed the deal.

UCU union members at the colleges held a series of strikes over pay earlier this year.

Vice-chair of the UCU’s further education committee Sean Vernell said, “The UCU has campaigned for many years for fair pay for FE staff. It was our eight days of strikes that forced the employers to take our demands seriously.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell sent a message of congratulations to workers on their “brilliant victory”.

“I hope this signals a change in direction that the whole sector can follow,” he added.

Possible

The deal shows that it’s possible to win pay rises in further education. It’s good news for UCU members across six colleges who are set to begin a two-day strike on Wednesday of next week. The colleges are Bath, Bradford, New College Swindon, Petroc, Croydon and Lambeth.

Workers want a 5 percent rise or a fixed increase of £1,500 for staff earning less than £30,000 a year. Individual colleges also have local disputes as part of the strikes.

Mandy Brown is joint branch secretary of the UCU at Lambeth College in south London. “The money is there to give workers a pay rise,” she told Socialist Worker. “Other union branches have received pay awards.

“And we won 1 percent after a previous strike. Management told us the strike was the only reason we got it.”

The UCU recently balloted members across more than 100 colleges, and won an 85 percent vote for strikes. But the vast majority didn’t reach the required 50 percent turnout for a legal walkout.

The UCU was set to begin reballots of branches that reached a turnout of 35 percent or higher as the strike gets underway next week.

Mandy said pay is a growing issue in colleges – and that workers must organise to keep the pressure on.

“A lobby of MPs over pay last month, which was backed by college principals, was very impressive,” she said. “It means that no one can argue anymore that further education is properly funded.

“We need to demand more funding from the government,” she said. “But we also need to make sure that principals release the money for pay rises.”


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