6 December 2013

Cross Sector Pay Strike Reports – 3rd Dec

If you have a report from your branch send it in to be included here via the contact from here.

West Yorkshire

At Bradford College pickets were out at all the main buildings from 7 in the morning. At mid-morning we congregated with UCU, Unite and Unison members from the University and held a short rally outside the town hall with student supporters.

The Leeds march and rally was as big as the last strike and the mood was upbeat. Around 400 marched through the city to a rally outside the Art Gallery where speakers from the FBU, Unison, the local President of the TUC, Jane Aitchison, and an FE speaker (me) addressed an enthusiastic crowd.

There were also marches and rallies in Barnsley, Sheffield and York.

South East Region

University of Brighton – Brilliant pickets at Brighton University yesterday. Probably the largest in a long while – we had 30 people at Falmer picketing (and that’s only one of the two Falmer pickets; and we have 4 campuses). Around 20 students joined us at various times and brought us tea/coffee and breakfast, we were very grateful and the support they offered (for most of them first time on a picket line) was fantastic. Our pickets were from 5am till midday (the photograph in the dark is us at 5am).  Most students arrived by 7.30am and stuck it out through till the end – it was cold… After that an Assembly for post–16 education was a different and an inspirational event because it enabled staff and students both FE and HE to get up and speak about various experiences and the importance of defending public education, and from different subject perspectives; it was a good event. Colleagues from other unions spoke, too.

University of Sussex – it was a great atmosphere and a well attend picket. Students’ support was in full swing with blockades to some of the entrances to campus – a really full and a buzzing day in defence of our education and for fair pay.

University of Chichester – There were sufficient pickets at both campuses, The Bognor Regis campus was dead all morning but I hear there was more activity at Chichester but still quieter than usual.

University of Kent – We had 40 to 50 members of the 3 unions picketing yesterday between 8 and 10, and perhaps another 15 or 20 student supporters. The student union having resolved to support us provided tea and coffee. This was followed by an interesting teach in for an hour and a half addressed by Prof Peter Taylor-Gooby (on trends in wages and inequality generally), a Unison rep, a couple of other academics, a student union officer and with some interesting discussion from the floor.

UCA (Kent) – Maidstone Campus of UCA saw very little sign of life from UCA academic staff, either on the picket line or going through it. Two of us picketted from 8.15 until 10.15. I am not clear if that meant they were on strike or simply using other entrances. A technician going through discussed joining UNISON and students from mid-Kent were generally interested and friendly. I’m afraid that there was no sign of UNISON or of mid-Kent strikers where we were.

East Kent College – We had a smaller turnout than we would have wished for. However, the support from students, parents and some staff was genuine and heartfelt. In total we had seven members of staff on the picket line and managed to persuade the Post Office delivery to not cross our lines amongst others. We also managed to plant a seed of discussion around pay and conditions with our Access to Teaching students who were in that day. We were joined by a colleague from the GMB who refused to cross and stayed with us all morning.

All in all, a day of highlighting issues and trying to develop the idea of the collective voice. Our only fear was that the approaching Christmas holiday and the loss of pay had a significant impact on our numbers.

Brooklands College – A number of members went on strike (9 members) yesterday, however – as  discussed with Neil Williamson – the college had no picketing action – Ofsted arrived on Monday.  Several members attended the rally in London. During the rally in London they picked up printed material and this has been circulated and used.

NW Kent College – A number of members attended the London rally.

South Yorkshire

Solid strike at Barnsley college with pickets on all town centre sites.
Some were on a picket line for the first time and there was a noticeable presence of new / young staff.
Greg O’Brien and Kathryn Hays -Associate Teacher and Instructor respectively- are both relatively young staff and they spoke of how the fall in pay has coincided with them coming into teaching and how depressing it must be for even newer members of staff and student-teachers to see the continued attack on pay and conditions. But both were really pleased that new staff in their dept., had joined UCU and were not only striking but picketing. They were also pleased with UCU’s campaign and the decision to take action with HE, to defend pay and education for them and future generations of teachers.

We received messages of solidarity from NUT, FBU, BFAWU, UNISON, NAPO & UNITE, and had picket line visits from the NUT, UNITE & UNISON.

Following the pickets, a delegation of UCU members went to the rally in Sheffield to join colleagues from HE and other unions striking. The main message from the rally was the need for a determined campaign of action, including further joint action within education, but also beyond. A spokesperson from NAPO addressed the rally and the FBU spoke to me and the Barnsley delegation, having been contacted by Barnsley Trades Council. Again, both spoke of how the attacks across the public sector are made to appear necessary because of the austerity agenda, but that it is clear the attacks are ideological.

All in all, a solid day of action in Barnsley and South Yorkshire.

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