From education to employment

Picket lines “solid” across Northern Ireland’s further education colleges

College lecturers across Northern Ireland took industrial action yesterday as part of their campaign for pay parity with schoolteachers.

Lecturers at Northern Ireland’s sixteen further education colleges underlined their continuing pay campaign with this, their fifth day of strike action this year, accompanied by a withdrawal of goodwill across the colleges.

University and College Union (UCU) regional official Jim McKeown said: “Stickers and ribbons were handed out to students and many were wearing them to show support. The rally outside the Department of Employment headquarters was well attended and I handed in our letter for the Minister”.

“There has been good publicity again, with reports carried by all main bulletins, several radio interviews and one for GMTV”, he added.

The rally took place at the Department of Employment and Learning in Belfast and then continued at the Belfast Institute’s graduation ceremony at the Spires Centre.

Speaking on the action, Mr McKeown continued: “This dispute is worsening and no-one in authority seems to want to sort it out. Agreed proposals for pay parity with schoolteachers have been with the government department since last January, yet the Minister cannot tell us if government will approve it. Lecturers were due uplift in pay from 1st September 2006 yet the employers have not made any offer”.

“The regional bargaining machinery has collapsed as a result of Newry and Kilkeel Institute refusing to allow one of our senior negotiators to attend meetings of the Lecturers Negotiating Committee. In the meantime, college mergers are under way against a background of non-co-operation and industrial action by lecturers”, he continued.

“Every day there are serious conflicts between lecturers and college managers and working relations are becoming very embittered”.

Employers have agreed that college lecturers should have parity of pay with schoolteachers and both sides have agreed upon a mechanism for implementation of this. However, the employers say that they need government approval to implement the package. On September 1st 2006, schoolteachers in Northern Ireland had their pay increased by 2.5%.

Mr McKeown added: “Strikes and industrial action are not what our members want. They want equal pay with other teachers for doing the same job. They want those in authority to get this settled. But no one should doubt our member’s resolve. This is the fifth day of strike action in this campaign and our members are determined to keep the action going”.

“One college is threatening to dock lecturer’s pay for not completing student registers. If that happens, it will escalate this dispute into indefinite strike action”.

Tiffany Dickinson.

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