The University and College Union (UCU) is balloting its members teaching in Further Education for strike action in October. Lecturers are demanding a 5 percent rise plus a rise in the wage of the lowest-paid.
This demand, if acted upon, would go some little way toward compensating lecturers for the previous decade of real-terms pay cuts, culminating in last year’s insulting offer from the Association of Colleges (AoC) of just 1 percent, sparking a wave of industrial action.
Every time the UCU presses for a pay increase, the AoC pleads poverty, blaming the government for underfunding and inviting the UCU to join it in putting pressure on Whitehall to loosen its purse strings.
That is all well and good, but AoC represents the employers, and it is up to the employers how they plan to fund decent salaries for their staff – not up to the lecturers to take yet another real-terms pay cut to keep the colleges afloat.
Now the AoC is trying the same trick again. Instead of addressing the just demand for a 5 percent rise this academic year, AoC boss David Hughes announced: “We are proposing a substantial pay package over two years contingent on government funding,” a proposal which the UCU has rightly described as “bizarre”.
Just how ‘substantial’ the offer is, spread over two years, is of course “contingent on government funding”, says Hughes, neatly passing the buck. He adds reassuringly that the AoC intends “to pursue government for a specific cash injection for pay”.
Well good luck with that, but that is your affair. The college lecturers are sick of being fobbed off with real-terms pay cuts, and no less sick of ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ handwringing from the AoC as it tries yet again to dodge its responsibilities.
The lecturers are fully justified in voting for strike action to hold the employers to account, and deserve the support of workers everywhere. (UCU launches national ballot for fresh college strike action over pay claim by Billy Camden, FE Week, 28 August 2018)