TEACHERS at Harlow College are going on a strike on Tuesday and Wednesday, claiming Further Education is the poor relation of the education sector.
The College will remain open, but members of the University and College Union (UCU) will stage a walk out after more than 50 per cent of Harlow branch members voted for strike action in a recent ballot.
Striking staff will be operating a picket line at the college gates where they aim to hold a peaceful protest, informing people of the reasons for the strike.
Union branch secretary Pauline Leggett said Further Education teachers had always been paid ten per cent less than teachers in schools. She added, “We call ourselves the poor relation of education. We think we do an incredible job at a really important point in students’ lives. We don’t see ourselves as any less valuable in the education sector than anyone else.”
Mrs Leggett said union members had seen a pay increase of just 1.5 per cent in the last five years and in real terms salaries had not kept up with the cost of living. Over five years, salaries were now worth 12.5 per cent less.
Branch Chairman Tony Morris said there was a massive drop in funding for young people in education once they reached the age of 16.
He said: “Teachers on strike don’t get paid and it can cost them hundreds of pounds. We don’t go into this lightly. We take it very seriously.”
Mrs Leggett added: “Striking is always the last resort, particularly in teaching. We don’t want to impact on studies, but unless we do something the managers won’t listen.
“We say to managers: look at your budget. Is there no way you can recognise the value of your staff with a better pay offer? Put your staff at the top of your spending agenda.“
Members of the UCU at Harlow, along with college principal Karen Spencer, took part in a rally in London recently as part of a national campaign Love Our Colleges which is calling on the government to give more funding to colleges.
Harlow College students appear to support their teachers’ decision to strike.
Charlie McGee from Debden, who is 19 in March, said: “I know funding is a huge problem especially after the age of 19. It’s nice they are striking for us and I hope it will make an impact, not just for me, but also for all students.
“They deserve more pay because they put in so much work. In some ways they do more work than secondary school teachers.”
Clare Eggenton, 17, of Hoddesdon, said: “I think the strike will be beneficial for us in the long run and I agree that the teachers work really hard.”
Teachers will picket from 07:30-09:30 on Tuesday and Wednesday. If the Government doesn’t appear to listen to their demands there could be a further three-day strike in March.