Further education set for industrial action over pay
Liam Oldfield, UCU non-teaching staff rep
University and College Union (UCU) members in 15 further education (FE) colleges have voted to take industrial action over pay, with 89% in favour on a 62% turnout. This follows an insulting 1% pay recommendation made in autumn 2020. We all know a 1% rise is a pay cut in real terms. After years of below-inflation pay offers, we need a minimum 15%-18% pay rise to match the pay of ten years ago.
Last year colleges received increased funds of over £400 million. Where is the workers' fair share? Our pay in FE needs to be the same for comparable jobs in Higher Education and our schools. In England, FE teachers are paid on average £9,000 less than schoolteachers.
Additionally, it is only fair that the benefits are the same across the board for teaching and non-teaching staff. We do a lot more than educate! All those working in FE should be prioritised and treated as equal; no FE worker should be on a substandard term-time only contract, have less holiday entitlement, fewer benefits or inferior pension to those they work alongside.
The money is there for all workers, including care workers, NHS workers and other key workers. The government expects us, the so-called 'essential' workers, to settle for less and less. But it won't wash in FE, as the ballot result shows!
The 15 colleges voting to take action could be just the start. The recent UCU FE sector conference voted to campaign for a 10% pay rise for all plus pay bonuses for the additional work education staff carried out instead of external examiners this year. The conference decided to ballot all other colleges in England to join any industrial action in the autumn.
FE workers have voted to fight back on pay, and to fight for it on a coordinated, national basis - starting with the 15 colleges. UCU should now reach out to other unions, especially in education, but also the health unions fighting for a 15% pay rise, to discuss coordinating the fightback on pay as part of a wider strategy of fighting any attempt by the Tories to make workers' pay the cost of Covid.
In The Socialist 28 July 2021:
Public sector pay