Socialist Worker

UCU calls 14 more days of strikes at Nottingham College after buoyant pickets

by Richard Buckwell and Jeannie Robinson
Issue No. 2675

Nottingham College pickets with UCU general secretary Jo Grady (centre) on Monday

Nottingham College pickets with UCU general secretary Jo Grady (centre) on Monday (Pic: Jeannie Robinson)


The UCU union has called 14 more days of strikes at Nottingham College next month, where workers are engaged in a battle against punitive new contracts.

The union said the college had backtracked on a commitment to limit teaching hours to 24 hours a week while a new contract is negotiated.

There was a buoyant mood on the picket lines as UCU union members at Nottingham College began a five-day strike on Monday.

Over 125 strikers came together outside the Highfields site where the principal has his office.

The pickets lined a busy road and did a Mexican wave while holding placards.

Management had begun to give ground in talks with officials and the possibility of a settlement was in the air as Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday afternoon.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady joined the picket line, praising the strikers.

The five-day walkout has put enormous pressure on management while talks continue.

Union members last week voted to continue their strikes, despite a second offer of concessions by management. This offered further pay protection.

Apology

But strikers want the same level for all affected staff, sacked colleagues to be offered reinstatement and an apology from management on the way they provoked the dispute.

The contracts would mean pay cuts for workers and worse conditions. Bosses have also sacked workers who refused to sign the contracts.

UCU members have struck for ten days over the last four weeks. After the five-day walkout this week, workers are set to strike on 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 20, 22, 25, 26, 28 and 29 November.

The strength and confidence of the strikers, with large picket lines every strike day and inventive marches and actions, has shocked management.

Some 3,500 people have signed a student petition in support of the strikes.

And students have noticeably swung behind their teachers, with most wearing stickers in support.

Residents in Nottingham are increasingly supportive, judging by constant hooting during the rush hour in solidarity with picket lines on main roads.

Last week delegations of strikers visited London colleges for support and donations are starting to come in from other UCU branches.

Workers have the power to win.


Universities come clean on low pay during strike ballot

University bosses have admitted that pay for workers has plummeted in real terms over the last decade.

The admission comes as around 125,000 UCU union members vote in a ballot for strikes over pay.

Findings from the bosses’ Universities and Colleges Employers Association showed that workers’ pay has fallen by around 17 percent in real terms since 2009.

The union says the figure is even worse, at 21 percent.

UCU members across 147 universities are balloting for strikes over pay, workloads and unequal contracts.

Union members at 69 of them are also balloting for action to defend their USS pension scheme.

The ballots end on 31 October. Union members are door-knocking and ringing workers to get the maximum turnout and Yes votes in the ballots. And the union has changed its rules to make sure that lower paid workers will get more support during a strike.

During a strike to defend the USS scheme last year, the union offered strikers up to £50 a day from its strike fund from the fourth day of strikes onwards.

This time, workers earning £30,000 or more will be able to claim up to £50 a day from the third day of strikes onwards.

Those earning less than £30,000 can claim up to £75 a day from the second day.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said this recognised the “enormous contributions” that lower-paid workers and those on casual contracts made to last year’s USS strike.


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