Workers in Further Education will strike on 10 November after college bosses have imposed a pay freeze. As report in Solidarity 381, both UCU, representing lecturers, and Unison, representing support staff, have voted for strikes as college workers have seen their pay decrease in real terms for six years. The pay freeze comes in the context of ever tightening budgets for FE colleges, with many colleges having already gone through may rounds of course closures and redundancies. The UCU FE executive passed a motion on 17 October which, as well as setting the date for the strike, called for a protest at Parliament and at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the day, and protests in other parts of the country. The motion also sought to ensure that members can retain control of the dispute by mandating the executive to reconvene to discuss the next steps and review negotiations. Control over the dispute by members will be essential, not only to hold negotiators to account but also to activate and involve members who have been demobilised by a series of defeats. Students and other trade unionists should rally around to support FE strikers on 10 November, and build a campaign around FE funding.
Teachers take action on workload
As the first half-term of the school year ended, around 23 October, there was a sharp spike in the number of schools where teachers are taking industrial action to fight for better conditions. Already it looks like two significant school disputes against excessive workload and bullying managements have been won. Three others remain live.
At Winterbourne School in South Gloucester the NUT (National Union of Teachers) announced six strike days, but after three days the school sought negotiations and then agreed to many of the union’s demands. Meanwhile in Wakefield NUT and NASUWT members voted to strike against the imposition of unreasonable workload and the reemergence of a bullying culture from senior management, including threats of suspensions of union activists. Just before the start of the half-term holiday it looked like the school headteacher has resigned and the unions’ concerns will be addressed. In Greenwich, NUT members at John Roan School have voted for strikes to take place on 3 and 10 November against excessive monitoring and workload.
More action is planned if this does not shift the management and picket lines are planned. NUT members at Listerdale Primary in Rotherham have started a campaign of action short of strike action which, again, has been triggered by unacceptable workload demand and the sudden suspension by the unelected Children’s Trust which now runs the local authority. It is extremely positive to see a flurry of action to defend teachers from increased workload and bullying management culture.
Together these problems are responsible for the loss of tens of thousands of people from the job. We need to see this spike in resistance spread and grow into an unstoppable tide if we are to stem the flood of teachers out of the classroom. A good start would be these disputes being publicised loudly and persistently by the teacher unions. The NUT’s Teacher magazine should lead with news of these disputes and the Union’s training for reps should be built around learning from no spreading these examples.
London transport strikes on the horizon
Two Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers’ union (RMT) ballots in London which closed last week have delivered huge votes for strikes. Drivers on the Piccadilly Line on London Underground have voted by an 85% majority for strikes, and by an even higher margin for action short of strikes, in a dispute over the breakdown of industrial relations with local management, brought to a head by the recent sacking of a driver on spurious and unfair grounds. Staff on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), part of the Transport for London aegis but operated by a private contractor (Keolis Amey Docklands), have also voted to strike, by a 92% majority, in a wide ranging dispute over a number of issues including management bullying.
An RMT statement said: “Our members on DLR are furious at the way that Keolis/Amey are trying to bulldoze in some of the worst working practices and conditions that we associate with the operations of the most cheapskate and anti-union companies in the transport sector, and that anger is reflected in these ballot results. “We will not sit back and allow this aggressive and bullying culture to develop on this key part of London’s transport network.”
Alfreton Grange Arts College strike
On 20 October, more than twenty teachers joined a picket line at Alfreton Grange Arts College, Derbyshire. This was the second strike day at the college after management introduced a nine period day and other draconian measures which are increasing workload, de-skilling teachers and damaging the education of children. Alfreton Grange is currently a local authority school under Derbyshire County Council. However, they have come under the influence of an academy group from Nottinghamshire, Torch Academy Trust who seek to raise “standards” at the expense of staff welfare. Thankfully the teachers at Alfreton Grange are in no mood to succumb to Torch’s bullying tactics, and more strikes are planned after half term.