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Wales FE funding: Victory, but keep the champagne on ice
The Welsh Assembly has performed a partial u-turn on Further Education (FE) funding in Wales, coming up with an additional £8.93 million in an announcement on 15 April.
Ron Job, Unison steward Gorseinon college, personal capacity
The extra money is entirely down to the campaign waged by UCU and Unison over the two weeks leading up to the Easter holidays. In that time there have been high-profile college gate protests in at least three colleges, with hundreds of staff and students taking part in each one.
Assembly Members (AMs) have been inundated with visits to surgeries and letters from those working or studying in FE and there was a lobby of around 500 staff and students of the Welsh Assembly buildings. More than one AM has admitted to union stewards in my college that we have succeeded in making this the main topic of conversation at the Assembly during breaks in business. All of this has been backed up with the threat of industrial action in those colleges where redundancy notices have gone out.
This campaign has been entirely run by stewards and other workplace activists in Unison and UCU who've come up with the ideas and have organised to make events a success. Credit also goes to students who've grasped the importance of fighting to defend their education and supported us every step of the way.
Everyone involved will be celebrating a significant victory achieved in an incredibly short space of time. But I think there will be some unease that regional officers from both unions seem to have reached the conclusion that the campaign is now over when there have not yet been any guarantees from management that there will be no compulsory redundancies.
If there are still compulsory redundancies in any of the colleges then there will be fury that management are sacking our members despite the extra funding, which they have done little or nothing to fight for.
Unions in any college that makes redundancies must not be left to fight alone. Members across Wales need to be drawn into a further campaign to force more concessions from the Assembly and provide support and solidarity to any college where unions are forced into industrial action to defend jobs and the quality of education.
If we've now put a stop to compulsory redundancies caused by this financial settlement, potentially bigger battles loom. The employers are attempting to carry through cuts, to re-organise FE in Wales by merging colleges and there is a £500 million reduction in Assembly funding from Westminster.
A two-week campaign showed the potential for organisation and the initiative of union members in the colleges. We need to carry the confidence we've gained into these future battles. We need to raise the demand to reverse previous partial privatisation and end the status of colleges as independent corporations.
For properly funded further education, publicly run and publicly accountable!
In The Socialist 22 April 2009:
Environment and socialism
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party workplace news