Picket lines swell as college staff strike in bid for higher pay

Unions have called for a 10% rise to help with the cost-of-living crisis

Unions have called for a 10% rise to help with the cost-of-living crisis

Strike action at an Oxfordshire college was called off this week, but went ahead at more than 20 others as staff entered the second week of protests against low pay in the face of the cost-of-living crisis.

University and College Union (UCU) members at Abingdon and Witney College voted to accept an improved pay deal last Friday of 8 per cent more for the lowest paid, 5 per cent for middle earners, including lecturers, and 3 per cent for the highest earners within management.

Staff at Croydon College in south London also voted to accept an improved pay deal that also increased the lowest salaries by 8 per cent.

But a further 23 colleges are yet to negotiate pay deals, with strikes continuing this week and next.

Unions have called for a 10 per cent rise to help with the cost-of-living crisis. In June the UCU rejected an Association of Colleges offer of 2.5 per cent.

Many UCU members walked out this week, holding banners at picket lines to the sound of drums, singing and chanting.

‘Enough is enough’

 Staff at the Burnley College picket line in Lancashire waved placards reading: “Don’t make us choose between heating, eating or teaching.”

Another staff member held up a sign saying: “How many unpaid hours does it take? Enough is enough!”

 Members of a large picket line outside City College Plymouth held up banners stating: “We care for SEN, who cares for us?”

One staff member said: “My resolve to continue has grown as the college has refused to negotiate properly”, while another said: “I felt proud to strike, but anxious about backlash from management.”

 There were similar signs at Derby College’s picket line. One read: “I’d rather be teaching, but we can’t afford not to strike.”

 Lewisham College in south London had a huge turnout, with staff congregated on the college steps alongside drums and banners reading “enough is enough”. They were joined by a dog (see picture) who stood in support of the protesters.

 Chants of “we are fighting, for better wages, we want them now, now, now” could be heard.

Jo Grady, the general secretary of the UCU, joined the picket line, telling the crowd: “I really feel there is a moment in this country that working-class people are waking up to their power.”

Some activists hired protest vans to display messages. A van at Derby College had messages reading: “Principal’s package: £198,000 each year: GIVE US FAIR PAY” and “£3.15 million spent on buildings in just two years. Equal to a 16 per cent pay raise for staff.”

Oldham College also used a van to display protest messages, prompting a visit from the Greater Manchester Police.

Waving pink flags and wearing matching pink hats, Oldham staff sang “ain’t no rain gonna stop this claim!”

According to The Oldham Times, the police attended the picket line on Tuesday, but left after determining that there was no obstruction.

The strikes are set to continue for another two weeks as the UCU negotiates with individual colleges for higher pay.

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