We know we are going to be faced with many questions and with statements about our action. The one already being bandied about is that it is wrong to take strike action during a time of economic recession and spiralling unemployment. Well no, it is not! Any public opprobrium should be directed at the bankers that have been on strike i.e. refusing to lend money, for several months. That refusal to lend money causes firms to go bust and workers to be made redundant. They continue withholding their capital (actually it’s our capital, now that we are bailing them out). The Government wants them to put money into the economy so that people begin to spend and create demand for goods and services. We will do that when we are paid what is owed us. Any increase in our spending power will benefit the local economy, stimulating demand for goods and services and therefore creating employment.
No doubt we will also be told that our action will jeopardise the viability of our college putting our jobs at risk. Well no, it will not! Many will remember that during the last recession it was FE that re trained and re skilled the people of Yorkshire. Again the government this time has stated that Colleges will be the lifeboat in this crisis. Money will be pumped into colleges to re-skill and re-train the workforce and reduce the dole queue. There has been a 40% increase in applications for HE courses nationally. Our message is that colleges should treat the crew of the lifeboat with respect and with the remuneration commensurate with the vital role that we will play. They should pay us what we are owed and have waited long enough to receive. It’s worth remembering that the college is forecasting an operating surplus of £400,000 for 2008/09, having achieved a similar figure in 2007/08.
The old spectre of an argument that the students will be harmed by our action will once again be raised. Well no, it will not! What will harm the students is an exodus of staff to other colleges in Yorkshire, where the Harmonised Pay scale is a reality. If you want to keep the crew in the lifeboat you don’t pay second rate money for a first class and crucial job!
One question you might be asking yourselves is can I afford to take strike action in these economic times? Nobody wants to loose a days pay, but at the same time the longer you work at the college the worse off we are. Colleagues in other institutions will be repeating the benefits of the incremental Harmonised Pay scale while we stay on our fixed points. Also, UCU will be supporting our action by paying £30 strike pay. Employers are exploiting fears about the economy, to ride rough-shod over employees. The key question is can we afford not to take action?
Our college is one of a minority of colleges that refuses to implement a national agreement reached between UCU and the Association of Colleges.
Q. What is the 2004 agreement?
A. The 2004 agreement reduced the pay gap between FE staff and schoolteachers. It means higher salaries both for new lecturers and those at the top of the scale and has been uprated in line with pay settlements since.
Q. How long has our college had to bring in the better pay rates?
A. UCU reached agreement with the employers in 2004. The college has now had four years to honour the agreement reached with the unions.
Q. Why does it matter whether my college pays the nationally agreed rate?
A. Staff working here provide first class teaching, yet receive second class salaries compared to other
Q. How can I find out what I should be getting paid?
A. Go to www.ucu.org.uk/FEpaycalc to see the current nationally agreed rates enjoyed by staff in
the majority of colleges. Starting salaries for qualified lecturers are £22,857, and top of spine staff get £34,587.