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College workers resist poor pay and dodgy bosses

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Workers in Norwich, Kirklees, Barnsley and Bradford are taking to the picket lines or gearing up for fresh strikes
Issue 2854
Several dozen UCU members are on a big picket line behind a trade union banner. A Unite flag is there

Big picket lines attracted big solidarity

Workers at Bradford College are leading the way in further education and plan to strike for two weeks over pay and conditions. The members of the UCU union took to picket lines for the first time on Thursday of last week. Picket lines were big and workers were met with solidarity from the Unite union members.

Workers are angry that college bosses only offered them a pay rise of 3.2 percent for most lecturers this year. In contrast the chief executive Chris Webb earns five times the average salary of workers at the college.

Workers are planning to strike on Tuesday and Friday of next week and then on 24 and 25 May. They are set to continue for nine days in June. These kinds of hard-hitting strikes can win.

‘We’re worth more pay’

Workers at City College Norwich struck on Friday of last week. On picket lines workers held placards that said, “We just want pay” and “We’re worth more.”

At the end of April, the college bosses agreed to negotiate with workers and came up with a set of new proposals. Management offered workers a pay award so low it meant that the college was no longer considered a Real Living Wage Employer.

The lowest paid were supposed to take a 5.1 percent increase, academic staff were offered 4 percent, and other workers 2.5 percent. Workers struck again on Tuesday of this week.

Kirklees workers are fighting 1 percent

Workers at Kirklees College in Huddersfield are taking on the bosses with four days of strikes. Bosses imposed an insulting 1 percent consolidated pay deal for the 2022-2023.

And now, the college has also imposed a 2.5 percent pay deal for this financial year. Next year it is also planning on worsening the pay scales for those at the top of the pay band. 

But workers are determined to resist, and UCU union members voted by some 94 percent for strikes. They are due to strike on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and on 5 and 7 June.

UCU regional official Julie Kelley said, “It is simply scandalous that Kirklees College is pushing its employees into poverty by holding down their pay with year after year of swingeing real term pay cuts.”

NewVic strikers plan NewPhase of fight

Workers at Newham Sixth Form—known as NewVic—are back at work after striking for 13 days. But they’re not giving up. They are planning to strike for three days every week until the end of the school term.

Workers at the college are battling a slew of attacks, and in particular are trying to fend off poor management practices. Strikers, who are members of the NEU union, are demanding that bosses improve internal procedures and stop bullying workers. They are also calling for proper resources to teach the curriculum.

Workers are so determined to resist, union membership has soared from 88 to 115. The battle at NewVic is an important one, partly because it reflects a much wider crisis across schools, colleges and universities.

Students and workers alike face a narrowing of education, alongside an increasingly strict management regime. In Newham, bosses are threatening another “restructure”—which is effectively code for cuts and redundancies. Disgracefully, bosses want to slash classes for performing arts, philosophy, Spanish, Fine Art and Public Services.

This represents a huge attack on the type of education that students can access. But they can be stopped. Workers are showing the way, but it may take more than three days of action a week to finally topple the bosses.

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Pay barney coming at Barnsley college

Workers at Barnsley college could strike after being offered a pathetic 2 percent pay offer.

The members of the UCU union are angry after being offered a tiny pay offer with a £300 one-off payment for this year. Yet workers have already suffered through a decade of pay cuts.

In a consultative ballot, 97 percent of union members voted for strikes on a 70 percent turnout. The ballot will run to 12 June and workers are planning to strike during key admissions dates unless bosses make a serious offer.

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