‘Keep going to win your demands’ – says UCU President

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UCU president JUSTINE MERCER (in red coat) joined pickets at CONEL yesterday morning

STRIKING UCU lecturers from Further Education Colleges across London packed out a strike rally at the Emanuelle Centre in Marsham Street in central London yesterday.

UCU members are striking for three days to achieve an increased pay offer and against excessive workload.

On the Tottenham picket line at (College of North East London) CONEL the UCU president Justine Mercer addressed the picket, saying: ‘Keep going to get your demands. Some colleges have settled and got 8.5% and more. Your college has £3 million surplus to spend on staff salaries. Don’t give up, we’ll give you all the support you need.’

Striking UCU lecturer Semra Ozcelik told News Line: ‘We want a pay settlement that’s right. We want fair pay the same as schoolteachers.

‘Our workload has increased every year and we have more and more responsibility added. And less time for planning lessons and preparation.

‘The government is totally hypocritical. In the Ukraine conflict they accuse Russia of war crimes but in Palestine they support Israel to the end. But Israel has killed 4,000 children in one month in Gaza. Western democracy is hypocritical and a fraud.’

Over 100 strikers and supporters attended the meeting in the Emmanuel Centre, where UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said: ‘We have made political gains and industrial gains. In 2019 when I became General Secretary, there were seven colleges involved in industrial action, now there are 100.

‘Some have settled because they got an offer which the members could accept, others are still on strike. We have a big job ahead of us. We have an oppressive Tory government with a very anti-working class agenda, which also means an anti-FE agenda.

‘They don’t send their kids to college. They use private education. We need to close the colleges-schools pay gap. Wales and Scotland have done it. It’s another reason to get rid of the Tories.’

Hayes and Harlington Labour MP John McDonnell said: ‘I have always been a strong advocate of FE. I think working in FE is a vocation, not just a job.

‘We want a commitment from Labour, a manifesto commitment, that we will have proper funding for Further Education properly established in their first year of government.’