LECTURERS AT 39 further education colleges struck solidly on Thursday of last week over the failure of college bosses to honour a national pay deal.
Five more colleges struck on Tuesday of this week.
The threat of strike action forced management at 28 other colleges to agree to meet the deal in full or to enter serious negotiations before last Thursday.
The Natfhe lecturers’ union has called two more strike days, on 15 and 16 March, and is encouraging branches to go into dispute where last year’s pay deal has not been implemented.
A special conference in two weeks time of delegates from the further education sector will assess the campaign and agree the claim for this year’s pay negotiations. Natfhe officials and activists say that the principle of national negotiations is at stake in the current round of strikes.
The union has secured an agreement that there will be national involvement from the employers’ and union sides at colleges that say they do not have the funding to implement the deal.
“But we cannot lose sight of winning the pay rise itself, as well as the principle of national negotiations,” says Howard Miles, from Natfhe in Bradford.
“There was an excellent mood on our picket line, despite the heavy snow. We had members there who have not picketed before. They were determined to fight not just over pay, but over 122 compulsory redundancies announced two weeks ago.”
Dave Swanson from Manchester City College reports, “We had lively pickets on all four sites. Some sections which had been weak in the past were almost all out this time. A management that was looking increasingly out of control now looks more nervous.”
“Over 100 Natfhe members took part in picketing across the four different sites,” reports Sean Vernell from City and Islington College, north London. “For the next round of action it is important that colleges not on strike twin with those that are.”
Picketing was successful at other colleges too, with 65 picketing at Lambeth College, south London, where branch meetings have called for escalating strikes up to indefinite action.
Just two union members out of around 250 went in at Blackburn College. Activists report that the solid strikes over pay show a willingness among members to fight.
“Of course, there’s unevenness,” says Sean Vernell, “But we should be bold in the tactics we adopt over pay, and over threatened cuts and the attack on public sector pensions.”