Staff in South West College (SWC) have almost completed their first week of strike action in a dispute over pay and conditions.
This will be followed by one-day strikes every six days for the next three months.
A majority of lecturers from SWC who are part of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) voted in favour of strike action “for fair and equitable pay”.
This is the first time since 2006 that staff from SWC have been on strike. Some of their students were not even born the last time the lecturers took to the picket lines.
Those on strike say that staff at SWC “should not be expected to absorb the cost-of-living crisis while money can always be found for the capital builds of campus expansion”.
Speaking from a picket line as cars, vans and lorries sounded their horns in solidarity, Gabriel Keown, UCU representative, said: “Staff have been forced to take action after a decade of pay freezes, followed by pay restraint, which has seen lecturer pay awards limited to between one per cent and two per cent per year.
“Wages are several thousands of pounds per annum behind schoolteachers who are themselves fighting for improvements in
South West College, strike.
Mr. Keown said Northern Ireland pay rates “are beneath what lecturers are paid in Scotland, Wales and many parts of England”.
Calling for all staff to be fairly rewarded for their work, Mr. Keown said: “Employers and the Department for the Economy must both take action to close the education pay gap. There will be continuous disruption across the sector until those who hold the purse strings get real and start addressing lecturer pay in a meaningful way.”
Mr. Keown says this is an issue about spending priorities.
“There is plenty of money in further education already, it is just not being spent on lecturer salaries,” he said.
“Over the past decade we’ve seen tens of millions of pounds put into campus development. We have over 60 governing body members across the sector who are paid £150 to £250 per meeting they attend,
“These people are usually already affluent, typically being accountants, solicitors and local business leaders. The boards they populate we view as totally ineffective, governing body chairs are paid a stipend of between £20-25,000 per year for one day’s work a week, £25,000 is the starting salary for a full-time lecturer.”
The union is also calling for a consideration for the workload that further education lecturers face in Northern Ireland.
Gaberial Keown, Union rep with South West College.
Meanwhile, health workers begin a two-day protest in Fermanagh and throughout Northern Ireland this morning at the lack of a pay offer
The protest, which will continue tomorrow, will involve ambulance crews, nurses, health care assistants, pharmacists, radiographers, porters, admin and technical staff, and domestic assistants., radiographers, porters, admin and technical staff, and domestic assistants.