Today, workers at 25 Sixth Form Colleges across the country are in the process of taking strike action to protest against the massive underfunding of our education system, in Leicester this strike action took place at Gateway and at WQE Colleges. This is a critical industrial dispute that the National Education Union (NEU) notes will only end when the government “agrees to fund the pay settlement for 2019/20 and provides for a sustainable funding environment for Sixth Form Colleges.”
Funding at sixth form colleges has been cut by 22 per cent in real terms since 2010/11, and the Tories recent promise for extra funding goes nowhere near to plugging the gap. That is why as a Unison steward based at Gateway College I was proud to stand alongside my NEU colleagues (both teachers and support workers) earlier this morning on their picket line. After all it is only through building active solidarity between different unions that we can secure gains for students and workers alike.
In fact, what is clear is that there is the beginning of a re-emergence of a militant mood amongst workers in Britain (as there is across the world). The recent ballot by CWU members in the postal service smashed the government’s anti-union thresholds, as did the just announced successful ballot of UCU members at the University of Leicester. Now what needs to happen if for the different unions to coordinate future strike dates to make maximum impact and give confidence to other groups of workers that we can strike together and win together! For more details on this front see the Education Solidarity Network: https://www.facebook.com/educationsolidaritynetwork/
With regard the importance of taking industrial action in the sixth form sector, the NEU explains:
“The timing of the action is crucial as NEU has seen how the Sixth Form College sector is suffering institutional fragmentation due to funding pressures (Academinsation; takeover and mergers by and with FE colleges; new college groupings being formed). This has, in turn, put pressure on national contracts, bargaining, and pay. This happened in last year’s pay deal with the differentiation of SFC Academies and Sixth Form Colleges. If this fragmentation is not addressed to ensure that funding levels meet the needs of pay parity with teachers in maintained schools and that other action is taken on pay, conditions and employment, then national terms and conditions will begin to weaken and potentially dissolve as has happened in FE.”
The leaflet handed out by striking staff was categorical: “We are at crisis point,” and it is the education of all our students that continues to suffer because of the Government’s deliberate underfunding of our colleges.
Please do everything you can to spread the word about today’s strike and future strikes to #SaveOurColleges. Also please consider signing the NEU’s petition to put further pressure on the Government to reinvest in our colleges, and join the fight back against all cuts to public services in Britain: we are after all the fifth riches country on the planet!