On Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th of January UCU staff members at all 3 campuses of Bridgwater and Taunton college left their classrooms, picked up the placards and made some noise. For the first time in over a decade the college staff voted to take part in industrial action over poor pay and lack of pay rise in the past 10 years.
BTC joined 12 other FE institutes across the country fighting for fair pay. Many staff members feel that they were actually earning more money 10 years ago, as with no pay rise and rising inflation staff have loss money. This is a salary that is low to start with, as school teachers on average earn over £7000 more per year then FE college lecturers.
So for two very cold meetings the staff stood out on the college gates at Bridgwater, Taunton and Cannington Campuses to show that they will not stand for this. Bewildered members of management watched closely as students turned up just to leave again as their teachers were standing proud on the picket line. One member of management had claimed in an email to students that a ‘small number of staff’ will take part in the strike, and that it will have very little impact…. The communal areas in the college was lay bare by lunchtime.
Staff from the colleges were joined by union reps from the UCU, including a member from the NEC, members of the TUC locally and from other unions, local Labour party members, students of the college and Somerset county councillor Leigh Redman (Labour, South Bridgwater) joined for few hours. The pickets, organised by BTC UCU Chair John Fones ran smoothly with participants raising awareness, handing out leaflets and informing passing students about what was going on.
The support show was phenomenal from all the cars tooting their horns as they went past, to Royal mail turning around and refusing to cross the picket line and deliver on both days, along with parcel force also refusing to deliver the 9 o’clock special delivery on the wednesday. There were cheers as the vans turned back around and drove of with the college mail.
On the Tuesday there was a public meeting in the town centre, with speakers, John Fones, Dave Chapple from the TUC and Vicky Blake from the NEC of the UCU. They all spoke passionately about the changes that need to be made and made the surrounding public aware.
Overall the staff have taken a stance and shown that they want change, it’s now up to the management at the college to see if they can help to gain it. If not the UCU have said that there may be more industrial action in March.