‘WHAT do we want? Five per cent! When do we Want it? Now!’ rang out on the picket line outside Lambeth College yesterday morning, as the lecturers at the huge south London Further Education college began a 48-hour pay strike, which continues today.
University and College Union (UCU) members at Lambeth and 14 other colleges around the country are taking 48-hour strike action in pursuit of a 5% pay increase or £1,500, whichever is the greater.
UCU member Steve Johnston said: ‘We are striking for fair pay. We haven’t really had a wage rise to speak of in the last 10 years, while upper management have awarded themselves substantial pay increases.
‘The average teacher in a college earns £7,000 a year less than the average teacher in a high school. I would be in favour of a general strike to defend all public services as a last resort, which strikes always are.’
Sean Mitchell, a lecturer at Lambeth for 25 years, said: ‘The government claim austerity has ended, but not for workers in FE. They see FE as a Cinderella, a superfluous part of the education system. But in a borough like this it’s crucial. There are around 10,000 students at Lambeth College.
‘The news came through today that Hugh Baird College in Liverpool has settled with 5% and five days extra holiday. We are hugely encouraged by it. It shows we are winning and confident of victory.’
UCU NEC member and President of the University of Liverpool, brought greetings to the picket line and told News Line: ‘I support this struggle. A lot of colleges around the country are now settling or on the brink of doing so, because they don’t want strike action.
‘It shows the power of the strike. I want a general strike to bring down the Tory government. We should have had one when they brought in the new anti-union legislation. We are already suffering from that. The reason some colleges aren’t on strike today is because they didn’t reach the 50% hurdle the Tories have set, but there’s a real appetite to strike in this union.’
Students joined their lecturers on the picket line and spoke out in support. Victor Eos Santos, an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) student, said: ‘Our lecturers deserve everything they are fighting for. They are great lecturers, all of them. All the students support them.’
Tommy Gillard, Performing Arts student, said: ‘Our lecturers are the best that you can get and they deserve everything they are fighting for. We all support our lecturers.’