By a college lecturer
Over one hundred lecturers at Dewsbury College took strike action on 24 and 25 May in anger at management’s refusal to make any firm proposals regarding the implementation of the nationally agreed Further Education (FE) lecturers’ pay deal.
The deal would see the introduction of a new, shorter pay scale across all colleges and would also narrow the pay gap between lecturers and teachers in schools. As Cathy Clarkson, a member of the lecturers’ union NATFHE at Dewsbury College commented,
“We are paid 7% less than teachers in schools, yet increasingly we are expected to teach school-age kids.”
Another lecturer, citing research recently published in The Times, added:
“Our demands are not unreasonable. As lecturers we are already working more unpaid overtime than any other profession.”
An earlier strike planned for March was called of after management at the college agreed to introduce the new pay scale. However, their failure to come up with any firm proposals since then has angered many lecturers, prompting one tutor on the picker line last Wednesday to declare: “This college is run on goodwill!”
Dewsbury College was one of around eleven colleges taking strike action over pay last week. Lecturers at the remaining 300 plus colleges have either settled with management or are in negotiations. However, very few of them have got anything even closely resembling the so-called ‘national deal’. And if the union’s strategy remains one in which only colleges who have not settled are called on to take action then it is highly unlikely that any one else will either.
The malaise in FE goes far deeper than the current battles over pay. It has its roots the “incorporation” of the sector in the early nineties. Since then colleges have been run as competing businesses at the mercy of the Government’s ever-changing funding priorities. Mismanagement and corruption have dogged the sector. Conditions for teaching staff have deteriorated massively and in many colleges it is all but impossible to find permanent, full-time teaching positions, such is the extent of casualisation.
The management at Dewsbury College responded to last week’s strike by announcing an anticipated shortfall in funding of £1 million and a “review of all staffing”; a fairly obvious euphemism for redundancies. The union branch is set to discuss this threat after half term but what is certainly true, is that the ‘goodwill’, in Dewsbury at least, has just about run out.