A three-day strike began at a South Yorkshire college yesterday in a battle over jobs and conditions.
The UCU union called a strike at Barnsley College over a proposed restructure which they say will ‘downgrade jobs, slash holidays and bring in performance-related pay’. Around 30 people picketed at the college, despite severe snow which caused travel chaos.
Barnsley College workers voted to escalate their action at a branch meeting on Wednesday. They plan to strike for four days next month and five days in March if their demands are not met.
Lee Short, branch secretary of Barnsley College UCU, said: “We covered four of the main town centre sites, which we haven’t done before. It had a big impact. Students told us they’d been sent home as there were no classes.”
Mr Short said that strikers had ‘won support’ from other trade unionists across Britain – including from Sheffield College, where UCU members also went on strike.
Mr Short added: “We have had lots of messages of support and they all make a difference to the strikers.
“Some people will feel the pinch – especially those on hourly contracts or on very low pay. We are asking people to keep donating to our strike fund.”
Speaking about the meeting, he said: “The meeting was really resolute. We have won some concessions – for instance improved sickness benefit – but we haven’t won anything on the substantive issues.
“We feel the things we are asking for are not unreasonable or unaffordable.”
Mr Short encouraged people to lend support via firstname.lastname@example.org
Colin Booth, Barnsley College Principal, said: “I am disappointed that after eight months of extensive negotiations, including the latest consultation meeting which took place on January 23, UCU continues to be in dispute with the college over a contract that will bring positive changes to the conditions of service for many of our staff and a pay structure that ensures they are paid fairly.
“I am pleased to say that a third of our 800 staff have signed the new contract and we will continue to enable others to do so into the future. I wish to reiterate that no current member of staff will be forced to sign the new contract.
“Barnsley College will be open and operating as usual on Thursday 29 and Friday 30 January and Monday 2 February as we work to ensure our students are unaffected by this strike action.”