Socialist Party
| Print

26 September 2018

Strike vote: college staff want a pay rise

Clare Gibbs, UCU Coleg y Cymoedd (personal capacity)

College lecturers are being forced to the brink by unsustainable and oppressive workloads. A University and College Union (UCU) Wales survey on workload showed that members are working 50, 60 and 70-hour weeks, but only getting paid for 37. We are literally working two days for free.

We cannot provide quality education on the cheap or on our knees, nor should we.

Welsh members of the UCU in further education are balloting for strike action over pay and workload. Pay is a crucial issue for UCU members.

We've endured an approximately 20% pay cut in real terms over the last decade. We're not all in it together, as we have seen principal and chief executive wages rocket.

It's our members who are seeking support from charities as they face financial difficulties. In January, the Education Support Partnership charity claimed requests for grants went up by 40%, with workers citing issues with housing, rent and mortgage arrears.

Others were struggling to cover basics such as food, bills and the simple cost of getting to and from work. Our pay claim of 7.5% goes some way to recompense the losses we've experienced.

We cannot afford any more pay cuts. We cannot afford not to fight on pay.

UCU Cymoedd took strike action in June 2017 as our workloads are unbearable. In January 2018, UCU Wales voted 90% in favour of strike action on workload.

With its customary arrogance Colegau Cymru - the body representing college principals - delayed negotiations. The Tory anti-union laws mean we must win the ballot again.

A decade of Tory-imposed austerity and woefully inadequate funding has devastated our sector in Wales. This process has been compounded by college employers who have squandered limited budgets on vanity projects and grossly inflated senior staff pay. In effect we have witnessed ten years of barbaric educational vandalism.

The pay and workload dispute is UCU Wales's most important dispute for a decade. It is essential that UCU members throughout Wales deliver a massive 'yes' vote for strike action. And it is imperative we reach the 50% turnout threshold imposed by the Tories.

We can and must win this dispute. A victory will defend our members from stress induced by workload and real-terms pay cuts. But more importantly, a victory will ensure quality education for our learners across the communities we serve.

Ballots close Friday 19 October. The Ucac Welsh education union is also balloting its members for strike action until Friday 26 October. UCU is planning three weeks of escalating strike action.