Workers in Further Education colleges will strike on Tuesday 10 November as bosses impose a pay freeze.
UCU members in Further Education voted 74% in favour of strikes after the Association of Colleges rejected the union′s claim for a £1 per hour pay rise. Unison members also voted to reject the pay freeze, voting by 95% in favour of strikes.
The college bosses’ association instead recommended that all colleges impose a pay freeze. In the last six years FE lecturers have seen their pay decrease in real terms as employers have offered a series of below-inflation pay rises — totaling less than 3% since 2009. Both unions are also seeking a guarantee that workers wont be paid below the living wage.
The pay freeze comes in the context of ever tightening budgets for FE colleges, with many colleges having already gone through may rounds of course closures and redundancies.
It is estimated that the adult skills budget has been cut by 35% since 2009 (19% of that was in the 2014/15 year alone), and funding for adults over the age of 19 is to be cut a further 24% in 2015/16. In 2014/15 there was a 17.5% cut in the rate paid for full-time 18 year old students.
This is on top of a 12% cut in non-school budgets agreed by the Department for Education (DfE) in 2010 for the period until 2015. There has also been no increases in funding for pay rises or inflation since 2010.
Many colleges continue job cuts. In the last few months Leeds City College has announced 146 possible job losses, Bradford College 140, East Kent 40, Lewisham and Southwark 112, Telford 85, and Petroc and Stafford have announced an unspecified number of job losses.
Understandably many workers will be concerned where this dispute will lead after a strike planned by UCU for October 2014 (as part of last year′s pay dispute) was banned by the High Court and the union ruled out more strikes.
The whole trade union movement should rally behind FE strikers on 10 November, and pledge support to help them fight for the future of further education.