By Jim Delaney
The strike for fair pay in FE on 24 February was the first joint UNISON and UCU pay strike in over 10 years. Members are furious about the Association of Colleges insulting 0% pay ‘offer’ and we made our opposition felt at colleges across the country.
Since 2010, funding has been cut by 27%. The squeeze on pay has meant that workers in FE have experienced a 17% real-terms reduction in wages over the last 5 years, equivalent to a £3,000 pay cut for some. Courses and jobs have been cut and workloads have increased. The steady loss of staff due to job cuts, overwork and low pay only adds to the harm being done to the sector and to society. Meanwhile, college Principals have been getting big pay rises—up to £200,000 or more a year. At Lambeth College, the Principal’s pay rose by £17,000 to £149,000 in 2013 and by a further £5,000 to £154,000 in 2014. At the same time, we get a pay freeze and some of our members, not even the Living Wage.
The joint UNISON and UCU picket lines were solid at all college centres. Strikers then went up to a rally in Central London. In her speech, Sally Hunt congratulated strikers and paved the way for further action: “If we have to do this again, then we do. Every step of the way challenge AoC’s policy. We should be very proud”. Gorden Marsden showed Labour support for our strike, for our vision of education and our concerns about the upcoming area reviews.
There was a lot of coverage of the strike on social media with colleges across the country from Manchester to Birmingham and from Bristol to Southport. Well done to everyone. UNISON’s National FE and 6th Form Committee are meeting on Friday 4th March to discuss next steps in the campaign for a fair £1 an hour extra for all staff.