This week UCU members across CCCG met and voted overwhelmingly to support the offer recommended by UCU officers. Every member should be proud of the action they took in defence of education and for professional respect.
After ten days of solid strike action and notice to take six more, management have agreed a new Teaching and Learning policy at CCCG. Management had imposed an open classrooms model that allowed lecturers to be observed, “Anytime, Any classroom, Any manager’’. The policy also linked observation performance to the capability policy, allowing staff to be fast-tracked out of the college. The new agreed policy will see staff having three 15/20-minute classroom visits a year with notification, which are ungraded and have no link to the capability policy.
The strike action also succeeded in levelling pay and holidays across the group. It has been agreed that lecturers at CONEL, in line with other colleges in the group, will be put on London weighting (worth £1,700) and that these staff members will also be moved onto the CCCG contract, which is worth an extra £1,500 plus three days extra holiday entitlement.
UCU were not successful in winning a consolidated pay rise but did win a £700 one-off payment to be put in the December pay packet for all staff (including business support staff not in UCU). UCU accepted this on the basis that fresh negotiations on a consolidated pay rise would begin after the Easter holiday for the 2022/3 pay award. It was also agreed to open further negotiations over LSA and HPL conditions and contracts.
Workload was the third issue that members struck over. A number of new important management protocols that they must implement were agreed. This includes the implementation of a new automated system that automatically contacts students that are absent from lessons, thereby negating the need for staff to contact those students/parents after every lesson and record them. A new working group with UCU was also agreed to look at further ways to reduce workload.
Over forty new staff have joined UCU across the group since the beginning of the dispute and only two have left due to dissatisfaction. UCU now has a 91% density amongst teaching staff, which puts staff in a very strong position to continue to defend and secure better working and learning conditions for staff and students.
A strike made by management.
This strike should have never happened in the first place. It was caused by the intransigence of management, who thought they could force through the imposed TLAD in the face of deep opposition among staff. It was management who consciously did nothing to try and prevent the strike from taking place, believing that it would collapse after a couple of days. But what they did not calculate was our members’ determination to stop this punitive policy.
There were a number of opportunities to negotiate a policy with UCU /NEU that all staff could have celebrated. Discussions took place in January last year. But UCU proposals were completely ignored. The ballot result in July, showing 96% in favour of strike action, provided another opportunity to meet with UCU/NEU representatives. But once again management failed to grasp this opportunity and instead wanted to test our resolve. The CEO put out an ill-judged letter to all staff in September stating, “you need to understand that no amount of strike action will change our position on pay or classroom visits”.
After the first 5 days of strike action, management eventually decided to meet. But again, they failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation or recognise that the strike was gaining momentum and not petering out. It took threats of more action alongside the NEU for management to eventually realise that they could not break the spirt of staff. UCU did not want this dispute and did all we could to resolve the issues without resorting to strike action. The disruption caused to our students’ education lay firmly at the feet of the senior management team.
UCU hopes that no further attempts will be made to bulldoze polices through while ignoring staff concerns. It is not the way forward if we wish to rebuild what we once had, a group of colleges that staff were proud to work in and that people sought to come to.
But staff will not easily forget the way senior management attempted to turn their students against them. We will now need a period of healing and reconciliation. But this can’t happen until senior management acknowledge the deep resentment that lay behind the mass support for the strike. There is growing discontent over the treatment of teaching staff and also over the manner in which line mangers are addressed when in meetings with senior management.
UCU will do it all it can to help move the staff/management relations forward. However, the events of the last few months have shown that senior managers must do a lot more if we are to avoid further disputes. UCU looks forward to working with our senior colleagues to ensure that we do all we can to avoid this.
UCU would like to thank all staff who struck, joined picket lines, attended protests and played a role in achieving so much. We did not achieve everything we wanted but every member of staff came out of the strike with more than they started, with a TLADP which is significantly better and a union in a considerably stronger position to fight the battles ahead.
In unity lies strength.