Students join teachers on picket line
Staff at City University, and City and Islington Sixth Form College, involved in dispute over pensions and casual contracts
28 February, 2020 — By Calum Fraser
Strikers at City and Islington Sixth Form College
UNIVERSITY lecturers and sixth-form college teachers have this week gone on strike in Islington against a squeeze on their pensions and the use of casual contracts.
University College Union (UCU) members at City University of London in Northampton Square, Clerkenwell, were on strike from Monday to Wednesday this week, while National Education Union (NEU) members at City and Islington (CandI) Sixth Form College, in Goswell Road, Angel, went on strike on Thursday.
Both unions are furious with what they see as a relentless squeeze on education budgets by the government and increased use of “zero-hour contracts”.
City lecturer and UCU branch secretary Martin Chivers told the Tribune: “We are out for two disputes, protecting pensions and fighting back against dwindling pay, pay inequality, and systematic overuse of casualised contracts.
“The disputes are very linked. Keeping people on fixed-term contracts stops them paying into a pension which then threatens the sustainability of the pension.”
Strikers at City University
He added: “The City students voted to reaffirm their support. The issues of gender pay gaps, race pay gaps and zero-hours contracts is something they also experience. They can relate to these struggles as they are often at the sharp end and it is not clear what kind of career they can look forward to. Having the students with us for our second round of action had really shocked City University management and given our members a real boost.”
NEU staff at CandI Sixth Form College went on strike twice last year, which led to the government announcing a funding increase, but a spokesman said this is “grossly inadequate”.
He added: “Jobs have been cut, class sizes have risen and pay has fallen. If the crisis continues to go unaddressed, the future of the sector is at threat and it is students’ education that will continue to suffer.”
Pippa Dowswell, who works at CandI, said: “No one strikes willingly, but our members are angry and determined to secure a properly funded future for both staff and students.”
The Universities and Colleges Employers Association is representing universities in the pay dispute. A spokeswoman said: “Employers are disappointed and dismayed that the UCU has chosen to ask its members to follow a course of industrial action.”