THE FIRST day of a five-day strike yesterday marked an escalation in the college lecturers’ struggle with eleven colleges out on strike.
At the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) there was a powerful and determined picket of around 30 striking lecturers, supporters and students.
Speaking at a rally in front of CONEL, striking University and College Union (UCU) lecturer Mark Andrew condemned the college managers for trying to divide the strikers, ‘We are not going to be broken’ he said.
‘The college’s “offer” of a £1,700 offer to a few staff is a divisive attempt to break the strike.
‘The offer is insulting.
‘It is divisive and we are not going to accept it.
I think the turnout today is fantastic.’
UCU chair of CONEL, Chris Anglin, told the rally: ‘Management are meeting our staff reps this morning and we are out today to support our reps and win this strike.
‘We cannot accept cuts in pay with massive increases in gas, council tax and mortgage repayments.
‘We have to balance our books at home. We refuse to accept increased workloads and continuous surveillance inspections in the classroom.
‘Our students are out today and we applaud them. This government is not fit for purpose and needs to be brought down by the trade unions in a general strike.’
Meanwhile, UCU members at the Royal College of Art (RCA) will begin their second week of strikes today in a fight against casualised contracts, to protect the terms and conditions of established academic staff and to push back against the use of unfair contracts for new staff. In total, staff are on strike for fourteen days across four weeks.
Management at the RCA are shockingly reliant on precarious employment practices. In the last two academic years there have been more than 1,000 visiting lecturers working on zero hours contracts with no guaranteed work and limited employment rights.
The action began with two days of strikes last week, and continues with three days of action this week (today, Tuesday 12 October, Wednesday 13 October and Thursday 14 October), and will also include continuous action short of a strike for six months from 4th October, entailing:
- boycotting all graduate and postgraduate assessments and marking;
- refusing to reschedule work cancelled due to industrial action and/or to share materials in relation to such action.
- not undertaking any voluntary activities.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘College leaders are facing another week of strike action and severe disruption because they continue to refuse to negotiate on pay. If they want to avoid further disruption they need to enter meaningful negotiations with us on wages, as other colleges have done.
‘It is outrageous that college staff have seen their pay cut by over 30% in real terms in the past decade, and are now being offered a below inflation pay rise of just 1%.
‘After strike action last week staff will be walking out again in the coming days unless they see improved pay offers.
‘This dispute can be resolved, but the employers must be prepared to pay staff properly.’