UCU’s Further Education Committee (FEC) met on Friday 5th October in the aftermath of consultation across UCU branches on the employers’ 0.7% pay offer. A majority of branches voted to reject the offer but also against strike action over this year’s claim. A proposal that we should “roll over” the 2012 pay claim into the claim for 2013 (an approach we took in similar circumstances several years ago) was argued by some FEC members but the vote on this was lost.
However the FEC did then vote that UCU should, along with other FE unions, submit an early pay claim after Christmas and the FEC voted for a strategy which could see a joint ballot over both workloads and pay launched early in the New Year. We would be in a position to ballot members with a view to taking both action short of strike action (ASOS) and strike action alongside other public sector and education unions early in the spring. The strategy adopted by the FEC would see that ballot on pay run alongside proposed action on FE workloads.
Our teacher colleagues in the National Union of Teachers (NUT), won a large majority for ASOS and strike action over the twin issues of pay and workloads, and started to implement their non-strike sanctions over workload last week. Reports from around the country suggest that the action is having a real impact. Because they won a ballot for both ASOS and strike action, this means that if employers react aggressively to the NUT ‘working to rule’, the union can move straight to strike action without having to re-ballot their members. It also means that the NUT can now call action on pay (the other issue on their ballot paper) without the legal requirement of another costly and time consuming national ballot.
It was the flexibility that a joint ballot over both pay and workloads, sanctioning both ASOS and strike action would give, which convinced a clear majority on the FEC to back the idea of following a similar position as the NUT. This means that early in the New Year we can have a hard hitting national campaign over the huge issue of excessive workloads, and also be in a position to be able to join with other unions in the joint co-ordinated action over public sector pay and against austerity that the TUC Congress recently outlined.
A number of important local disputes were reported to the FEC, some of which have national implications. These include:
Lambeth College, a dispute over a non-negotiated observation scheme in which the employer is threatening legal action. A statement of support for Lambeth members was agreed by the FEC. Several FEC members reported how important for morale it was for members in dispute to receive messages of support.
Gateshead College, on strike during the week and due to strike again on Wednesday 10th October in a dispute over jobs and workloads.
Please send messages to: Alison.Richardson@gateshead.ac.uk
Barnfield College, over contractual changes, where members took strike action (the first local strike action for decades) during last week.
Messages to: Diane Parkins Vice-Chair UCU Barnfield Diane.firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile: 07871176662 UCU Barnfield Branch, c/o 19 Millards Close, Flitwick, Beds MK451AS
And Kent College, where there are major threats of redundancies.
Messages of support, offers of solidarity and visits to:
FE Professional qualifications and FE Guild
FEC received papers summarising proposals to change FE training and professional qualifications in the light of the Lingfield Report and the removal of compulsory registration to the IfL.
From 30th September there is now no compulsion to register with the IfL or to register CPD. However the regulatory requirement for FE teachers to be appropriately qualified remains and talks are on-going with regard to setting up an FE Guild. LSIS is also currently conducting a review of FE qualifications.
GCSE and A Level Exams
FEC received a report of the problems and furore over the summer with respect to A Level and GCSE grading. The impact on recruitment and student progress has been significant and has hit hardest those students needing most support and encouragement. Much concern was expressed about Michael Gove’s proposed changes to re-emphasise exams and promote ‘rigour’.
UCU had also made a submission to OFQUAL, pointing out among other criticisms that the changes to A Levels had not been subject to a full equality impact assessment of the equality of opportunity for many young people.
Finally, FEC approved the new England NJF Equality Agreement which aims to consolidate a range of previous equality agreements referring to specific protected characteristics and progress implementation of the provisions of the Equality Act 2010.