On 24 February, lecturers’ union UCU and public sector union Unison took joint strike action across England in the further education sector for the first time. The unions’ pay claim, which amounts to just £1 an hour extra for further education workers, had been rejected by the employers. 74% voted to strike. Below are reports from some of the picket lines:

Joint UCU and Unison FE strike, 24.2.16, photo by Iain Dalton

Joint UCU and Unison FE strike, 24.2.16, photo by Iain Dalton   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Leeds City College

Picket lines were literally drawn on the pavement outside the college entrances at two sites and the mood was strong among the striking UCU and Unison members who assembled from 7am. The strike saw good support for those taking action and from members of the public and students, including Socialist Students members and local council shop stewards.

Many drivers beeped their horns in support. We had conversations with students who had never experienced a picket line and explained why it was necessary to take action. Some joined us when we said that this was not just about pay but the quality and privatisation of their education.

Manny Dominguez and Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

Waltham Forest College, east London

In Walthamstow one striking worker said she had no option but to strike for better pay. She is struggling to help her son through university and couldn’t even afford to help him pay the rent.

He’d been forced to couch surf at university this year. College workers have suffered under a pay freeze for six years.

Despite teaching responsibilities alongside many other roles the college has classified her job to guarantee her pay remains low. Five of the 12 pickets bought copies of the Socialist and were pleased the paper carried an article on their strike.

Ian Pattison, Waltham Forest Socialist Party

Warrington College

A small, but determined, band of pickets from UCU and Unison were outside the college gate when I visited. Some members had gone into work due to fear of the consequences of stepping out of line but some workers turned back when they saw the pickets. There is a feeling that the college management is simply riding roughshod over the workforce.

Andy Ford, Warrington Trades Council

Southampton City College

“This dispute cannot be allowed to end in one day of protest, we need to keep up the pressure by escalating action. The government will not back down when faced with a one day strike!”

These were the words of a striking UCU member in Southampton. With continued reductions in funding in the last few years, student numbers have been plummeting along with the loss of courses. These include a vital trade union education department.

Pickets arrived from 8am and were still outside the college at midday. Spirits were high and support was given by staff and students.

Declan Clune, Southampton Socialist Party