It was a measure of the frustration at rising workloads and stress levels over 50 college workers took it in turns to picket the four campuses of Coleg y Cymoedd. UCU members were out in force at Nantgarw, Ystrad Mynach, Rhondda and Aberdare campuses in a one day strike supported by 80% in a strike ballot.
One of the strikers told us on the picket line:
“The college introduced new arrangements in 2015 for the time they are given to complete work outside the classroom, such as tutorship or reviewing the marking of other staff. UCU has made very reasonable requests such as a work loading study to ascertain how long our duties take us as a starting point for negotiating appropriate time to fulfil our duties, but the college management have refused to consider them.
“Management believe there has been no increase in stress, but a stress survey carried out by branch last year identified that education was being damaged by lack of adequate remission for quality assurances processes, inadequate provision for lecturers teaching Higher Education courses to update themselves on recent subject developments, and inadequate provision for lecturers required to act as course tutors providing vital pastoral and educational support to students. Through casework our reps can confirm that lecturers have left the profession due to intolerable workloads. Some members have taken a reduction in contractual hours as they simply cannot manage to undertake duties within contracted hours, others have welcomed voluntary redundancy as they are desperate to leave the profession and some staff have left without severance packages.
“Consistently throughout negotiations we’ve been told there is a lack of money. We appreciate there is a funding issue in Further Education in Wales; it has been apparent for some time. We don’t think that justifies cutting remission for duties to the bone, or widespread redundancies, or cutting sick cover pay and payment protection, especially when monies have been available for other areas like a Principal pay hike of 46%, redundancy payments for managers followed by advertisement of their posts and huge capital investment projects. Staff, and their working conditions, should not be seen as a cost but as an investment.”
Cardiff Trades Council and Caerphilly Trades Council both sent delegations to support the strike and were warmly received by the pickets. UCU at Coleg Y Cymoedd will be stepping up the action next term if management do not come forward with new proposals to reduce stress and workload levels.
Send messages of support to UCU Coleg Y Cymoedd, FB: UCUColegyCymoedd, T: @UCUCymoedd, ‘phone: 01443 663116 and email: UCU@cymoedd.ac.uk.