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Andrew Price

Wales further education pay dispute:

Vote ‘yes’ in strike ballot

(March 2008)

From The Socialist, No. 524, 12 March 2008.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Welsh members of the University and College Union (UCU) employed in the Further Education (FE) sector, are currently voting in a strike ballot in a pay dispute declared by their union with the Welsh employers’ body Fforwm.

For the last two years Welsh FE lecturers have enjoyed something as yet beyond the reach of their counterparts in England and Northern Ireland – pay parity with schoolteachers.

This national agreement was not the result of the generosity of the employers or the ‘clear red water’ that supposedly separates New Labour in Westminster from its colleagues in the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff. It was the achievement of NATFHE (UCU’s predecessor union), which in Wales was genuinely left-led. We threatened the employers with a massive programme of strike action unless agreement was reached.

Now at virtually the first serious test of the agreement, the employers are blatantly breaking it by refusing lecturers the right to progress to the top point of the salary scale.

UCU members throughout Welsh FE understand that this dispute goes a lot further than this. If the employers break the agreement now, that is the start of a slippery slope.

The agreement has given our membership a small element of protection from the free-market madness originally introduced by the Tories but sustained by New Labour in both London and Cardiff, which once meant 23 Welsh FE colleges all on different pay rates!

It is essential that UCU members throughout Welsh FE deliver a massive ‘Yes’ vote to both questions on the ballot paper. Voting results will be watched carefully by both the employers and Assembly politicians.

Recently the Webb review into post-school education in Wales recommended the reduction in Welsh FE colleges from 23 to 9. Nobody believes that such a reduction could be achieved without massive redundancies – mostly compulsory.

Fforwm therefore views this dispute as a forerunner of a future bigger battle. Most Welsh FE college principals have imposed a 2.5% pay increase – then awarded themselves an increase way above that. In the week that Welsh Assembly members awarded themselves an 8% increase, UCU members have every right to expect decent pay levels.

A victory in this dispute would not just be a victory for our membership; it would be a victory also for the students throughout the communities we serve.

Andrew Price was UCU Wales lay negotiator on FE pay.

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Last updated: 6 November 2016