UCU and Unison members in FE colleges struck on 10 November in a dispute over an imposed pay freeze. In the last six years FE lecturers have seen their pay decrease in real terms as employers have offered a series of below-inflation pay rises — totaling less than 3% since 2009. Both unions are also seeking a guarantee that workers won’t be paid below the living wage. The pay freeze comes in the context of ever tightening budgets for FE colleges, with many colleges having already gone through many rounds of course closures and redundancies. Workers held picket lines at colleges on the morning of the strike, with rallies being held after picket lines in London and Birmingham.
A sustained union campaign, including a strike ballot amongst Piccadilly Line drivers, has secured the reinstatement of a sacked worker. The driver was sacked for allegedly answering his phone while in the cab, even though witnesses attest that he handed over control of the train before doing so. The driver, who has been out of work since May, has been reinstated as a CSA. London Underground had previously insisted that reinstatement was out of the question. This is another example of how union pressure can change the balance of forces and force management’s hand. What was once impossible suddenly becomes possible. RMT drivers are still in dispute with Piccadilly Line management around a variety of issues and may still take action. This reinstatement should provide inspiration for a number of other ongoing reinstatement struggles across the job. Solidarity wins!
Hungry for justice
GMB, Bakers Food and Allied Workers’ Union, and Fast Food Rights activists protested on 10 November at fast food outlets across the country. They protested in solidarity with #FightFor$15 strikes in the USA and to demand a £10 living wage for fast food workers in the UK. Protests happened in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, London, Bolton, Bradford, Salford and Sheffield. In the US fast food strikes are being organised by the SEIU union, and have been growing in the past year. GMB is also organising workers in Marks and Spencers depots across the country, and has organised protests against casualised working practices in M&S’s Swindon depot.
Fighting for respect
NUT members at The Joan Roan school in Greenwich struck on 10 November in a dispute over observations, workload, and marking. Teachers say that unrealistic marking policies and a testing culture is driving up workload to unsustainable levels, leaving teachers exhausted and demoralised. Teachers at the school say they are fighting for something more than a better policy on workload and observations. They are fighting for respect, for the next generation of teachers who should be able to stay in the classroom for more than three years without giving up due to stress and exhaustion, and for their students who would like to see the same teachers last longer than a few terms. Teachers across the country are facing increasing workload and scrutiny. Hopefully strikes like that at John Roan school will inspire others to fight back. Teachers organised picket lines outside the school, and leafletted parents in the lead-up to the strike and on the day.
• Messages of support to NUT