Friday, January 08, 2016
Fight the Pay Freeze in FE - Vote Yes for Action
UNISON members in Further Education (FE) colleges have the distinction of kicking off the fight for fair pay for public servants in 2016.
Members will be receiving ballot papers asking them to vote "YES" for both strike action and action short of strike action after national negotiators made a 0% pay "offer" and the majority of local colleges failed even to respond to a request to consider improving on this "offer" locally.
FE has been hit very hard by the past five years of needless austerity (the Tories having no love for a service of such value to working class people). However, joint campaigning by the unions and the Association of Colleges did limit the further damage to the sector anticipated in the autumn statement.
Like every other group of public servants (albeit they are now categorised as part of the "private sector") FE workers face the dilemma of demanding fair pay from employers plausibly pleading poverty.
There is, however, no real contradiction between defending public services and demanding fair pay for those who deliver them. There is certainly no evidence that pay restraint saves jobs (just look at local government, where the pay freeze which has sliced 20% off our standard of living has been accompanied by a 20% cut in jobs!)
We need decent, well-resourced public servants provided by workers who are fairly remunerated - and we need to fight against the pay freeze and to defend our jobs and services at the same time.
UNISON members in FE should vote "YES" and "YES" - and activists in the many local government branches which include FE members, not all of whom enjoy the level of workplace organisation we would wish, need to step in to help in their local College (and to recruit members to raise our density in the sector).
With every prospect of a dispute over NJC pay for local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (and no one wanting to repeat the fiasco of 2014), the FE dispute - vitally important in its own right - could also be the precursor of larger fights to come.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.