Uckfield college teachers join strike over pay

Uckfield Community Technology College was closed to students in years seven to 11 yesterday as teachers went on strike over pay.uctc-logo-2

There was a picket line at the college gates in the lead up to the usual opening  time and then protesters moved off to attend a union meeting at Lewes.

Phil Clarke, secretary of the National Education Union in Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealden said the union was strongly represented at UCTC with about 80 members.

He said the strike was in support of newer teachers who were being denied a nationally agreed 2% pay rise.

Mr Clarke said: “Unfortunately we have tried negotiating but nothing has come of that.”

First day of action

Yesterday was the first day of planned industrial action at secondary schools in Lewes, Eastbourne, Peacehaven, Seaford and Uckfield.

If there continues to be no progress towards achieving the national pay rate before Thursday, May 3, there will be another strike at the same schools. Other schools will be involved then too.

Mr Clarke said the teachers felt what they were doing was right and necessary.

“They would certainly rather not have to strike but they have been put in a position where they would otherwise have to accept a lower pay rate in the county.”

Big issue

He added that a big issue in the South East was the very high cost of living.

“There is no extra money to cover that, as there is in London or in Crawley for example. We are in a ridiculous position that most northern counties have got the pay rise and yet house prices there are a third of what they are here.”

Mr Clarke said the teachers’ message to parents was that they didn’t want to have to take industrial action but in the long term it would do students no good at all if schools in East Sussex couldn’t recruit because they were known to be low-paying.

“We would ask parents to talk to head teachers and councils to get this sorted out.”

‘Small cost’

He said the amount of money needed to fix this was “very small”. At UCTC it would cost an additional £10,000 out of a budget of many millions to give newer teachers the nationally agreed 2% pay increase.

In closing UCTC to students in years 7 to 11 principal Hugh Hennebry said in an email to parents he recognised the impact the strikes would have on students, parents and carers, particularly with GCSE and A-level exams coming up.

However, he said, the decision was being made while considering the health and safety of students, which was the highest priority of himself and the chair of governors, Andy Crabb.

National issue

He questioned why a few schools had been picked on, when the issues, and the subsequent dispute “is actually a county, South East and national one?”

He said: “This is not fair. Why should students in a few schools suffer when historically strikes that are about national issues (and at the heart of this is the historic lack of funding for educational nationally) involve schools across the country and all schools are balloted over industrial action?”

Mr Hennebry also said all East Sussex schools had cut their budgets to the bone over many years of cuts in real terms.

Redundancy

“Most have cut staffing in recent years, mostly through redundancy and the rest through not replacing staff who leave. Schools do not overcut in order to produce a surplus, therefore there is no spare.”

He said whatever the outcome of the dispute there would definitely be no winners.

See also:

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