UCU and Unison strike together for fair pay in FE!

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Halesowen UCU on the picket

Today UCU are out together for the first time in 10 years in an historic pay strike. Pay freezes and insignificant raises have meant a big real terms cut in college pay over the last 6 years. This year, while principal pay continues to be eye-watering three figure sums with ongoing rises, bosses have imposed a pay freeze again. We are calling for a progressive pay rise of one pound an hour which will see those who are paid the least benefit the most.

There are 3.5 million students in FE – 61 percent are women and 15 percent are from ethnic minorities. Further Education is often referred to as second chance education, but for many students it is often the first chance when you look at the barriers that are there for them. For my students this includes domestic violence, mental illness, eviction and more.

44 percent of students that enter HE come from FE, but the it is the cinderella sector of our cash strapped education system. Last year alone saw a 24 percent cut to the adult education budget followed by a further attack on ESOL funds. Vince Cable claims the tories planned to get rid of FE while the coalition were in power. At the moment we are undergoing area reviews with the aim of snatching back even more funding from working class education by merging colleges.

College bosses think the only way to ride out the assault on FE is to continue to expect staff to do more for less. But it isn’t
sustainable. FE does amazing things in society, but so much of that now is powered by good will and college staff are at breaking point. I am used to dealing with young branch members in tears. Principals choose not to see this side of life in FE, but our reps have to try to deal with it every day.

We want college leaders to come back to negotiations. We need to move on from the culture of huge salaries at the top while pay falls and falls at the bottom. Principals who believe in Further Education and all that we achieve in society need to start valuing staff – and to work with us for a fairly funded, sustainable sector.

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