LECTURERS AT Leicester College have suspended their strike in defence of union rights, which has lasted for an amazing four weeks. The all-out strike by members of the Natfhe union was over the college management's attempt to bring in a non-negotiated contract that attacked working conditions. The strikes forced management back to the table.
They agreed to go back to a negotiated contract for all staff and put back a weekly limit on teaching hours. There was a slight shift on the proposed cut to holidays with one day to be 'self managed' and the rest phased in. Management's proposals met with an angry reaction. Strikers don't want to sign a contract worse than the one we're on now. There was a strong feeling the action was just starting to bite and we could yet win more.
Workers at the meeting initially voted by two to one to stay out on strike. This determination was boosted by solidarity. The council Unison branch voted to give us £500 and the Leicester NUT donated £1,000. An NUT speaker told us our action had inspired teachers.
But there were problems too. A significant number of staff have already signed the contract, making a negotiated contract all the more critical. Natfhe official Barry Lovejoy also played a very damaging role. He cobbled together a rotten deal, telling strikers they had to accept it or face a terrible defeat. One striker said management 'must have thought it was Christmas come early when he walked in'.
The meeting went to a second vote and agreed to suspend strikes for four weeks. Strikers are now talking of taking the fight inside. We will build the union and put pressure on management during talks. One group of strikers has already been threatened by their manager. Any victimisation will be met with immediate action. Pickets have said all along they will not go back to the old regime.
THERE WAS a new mood at Shrewsbury College of Arts and Technology (SCAT) as lecturers in the Natfhe union struck for a day to demand that management honour the national pay deal.
In a ballot 60 percent of union members voted and 92 percent voted for strike action. SCAT is one of a handful of colleges not to honour the national pay deal. The majority of students expressed support for the lecturers' action and refused to cross the picket line.
Anne Casey, Natfhe branch secretary at SCAT, told Socialist Worker, 'We will consult with our members to establish what further action we will be taking. 'We want parity for all FE lecturers. We are paid less than our colleagues in schools and in many cases up to £5,000 a year less than neighbouring colleges.'
Mike, another Natfhe lecturer, told Socialist Worker, 'A lot of people have joined Natfhe over the last few weeks. The last branch meeting to discuss the strike had to be moved to a bigger room. Lecturers were very angry, not only about the management withholding their 3.5 percent pay deal, but also about redundancies being announced in the college without any consultation with the union.'
Strikes over the same issue also took place at Bradford College, Cambridge Regional College, City College Birmingham, Evesham and Malvern Hills College, Rother Valley College and Stourbridge College.