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Lecturers vote for strike

March 2006 action
March 2006: Natfhe and the AUT take joint action over pay. Now merged into a single union, the UCU, they are taking national action over pay again.
Photo: Workers

College lecturers in England have voted to strike on Thursday 24 April in support of their pay claim for a 6 per cent rise or £1500, whichever is the greater, for 2008–9. The University and College Union balloted 27,500 union members in 257 colleges. On a turnout of 38.6 per cent, 65.5 per cent of those voting supported strike action and 86.2 per cent also supported action short of a strike.

A major independent study, soon to be published by UCU, reveals high levels of staff dissatisfaction and low morale throughout colleges in England. In both schools and colleges, many teaching professionals believe their employers are ignoring their professional status and serving business interests at the expense of educational needs.

Growing workloads are also a major concern. As well as teaching, lecturers carry out course development, lesson preparation, marking, professional development and administration. A quarter of lecturers already teach more than 850 hours a year, jeopardising quality. The lecturers want negotiations on common conditions of service across all colleges.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of UCU, said, "It is more than four years since FE employers agreed to move lecturers to the same length pay scales as school teachers but 47 per cent of colleges still haven't done that. The treatment of FE staff is a scandal. Further education is central to the government's plans for re-skilling the nation but colleges must also serve their communities, not simply be factories for qualifications."

UCU, the teachers' union NUT and the National Union of Students have recently launched a wider joint campaign, "Our schools, Our colleges, Our communities", to draw attention to the threats to the quality of local public education.