Wales FE lecturers strike over pay betrayal

Lecturers in every Welsh FE college will strike for one day on Wednesday April 16. The dispute has been called by the lecturers’ union UCU following the failure of last ditch talks at which the college employers’ organisation, fforwm, would not guarantee to fully implement a new national pay structure finalised only 12 months ago.

On the strike day, FE lecturers from all over Wales will picket colleges from 8.30am and hold a rally at the Senedd (Welsh Assembly building) in Cardiff at 11.30am.

UCU members in Welsh colleges voted in a recent ballot by 72% in favour of a programme of strike action and 90% in favour of withdrawal from key duties associated with college quality management. Lecturers were balloted following fforwm’s refusal to implement a significant step in the new pay structure, which should have seen experienced lecturers progressing to the top of their new pay scale this month.

UCU representatives and representatives of fforwm met with the Wales Assembly Government (WAG) minister responsible for FE, John Griffiths, in a final attempt to resolve the dispute on April 7th. Some limited progress was made. However the employers refused to implement salary progression from April and would give no assurances that they would adhere to the new national agreement in every college in the future.

UCU Wales official Margaret Phelan said:

“The principle has been accepted in Wales that lecturers should be paid the same as school teachers. UCU signed a national agreement on this with the employers, in good faith, and we expect it to be fully implemented. The funding has been provided by the Welsh Assembly Government and colleges should be paying up. I now urge UCU members to give maximum support to the planned industrial action. The union will do everything it can to bring about a fair and swift solution.”

UCU Wales FE Chair, Guy Stoate said:

“The ballot majorities in favour of action indicate the extent of anger and concern amongst ordinary lecturers. FE lecturers do not take action lightly. This is the first national FE strike in Wales for almost a decade. We will certainly do all we can to minimise the impact on students. However the employers are seeking to undermine a national agreement that not only restores fair pay to FE lecturers but also directly benefits students by promoting excellent professional practice. That is why UCU will take whatever action is necessary to defend the agreement.”

Pauline Atienza, Cardiff PR member and secretary of UCU Wales FE section said the following:  “Management is clearly trying to scupper the all-Wales agreement and go back to college by college pay bargaining.  This strike is a strike to save that agreement”.

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