STAFF at York College were out on strike today (Monday, September 11) over pay and the status of further education (FE) lecturers.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) picketed outside the Tadcaster Road entrance to the campus and were greeted by beeping horns in response to their chants of ‘we can’t survive on two point five’.

Official negotiations which began in January – with a union claim for a 10 per cent increase and the college offering two-and-a-half-per cent – stalled on August 28.

On what should have been the first day of the new academic year, students were advised that the site was closed today.

UCU is also campaigning separately in higher education and Julie Kelley, UCU’s regional official, said further education is the ‘cinderella’ sector where she said pay has fallen behind the university sector and school teachers.

The Press spoke to three students who joined the picket line in sympathy with UCU members including University of York student Boitumelo Mokalake, who said he would not have made it into higher education without the support of two of the tutors on the picket line.

York Press: Boitumelo came back to his former campus to support his former lecturersBoitumelo came back to his former campus to support his former lecturers (Image: UCU - York College branch)

He said of the area in Botswana where he grew up there is a saying – "a champion is raised by a village" in reference to the times tutors Alison Willis and Sean Ledwith picked him up each time he considered leaving York College.

Mathematics teacher Hamish Brown said: “Nobody wants to strike, we’re doing this because we feel we have no choice.

York Press: Hamish Brown said that striking was a last resortHamish Brown said that striking was a last resort (Image: UCU - York College branch)

“We’ve been offered an absolutely appalling pay deal between January and December this year.

“The government has just announced there’s going to be more money for college lecturers.

“I think the general public assume that we get the same as teachers do."

A York College spokesperson said: "Despite our regret at having to postpone the start of the new academic year due to industrial action by members of the University and College Union, we were pleased to witness that the strike was carried out amid an environment of mutual respect between staff on the picket line and those who reported for work this morning.

"We are now looking forward to welcoming both students and staff back on campus tomorrow.”

The union has said further strike action may be held on Friday, September 15, if there is no resolution in the dispute.

Cllr Bob Webb, portfolio holder for children, young people and education at City of York Council, was at the picket line and was asked about recent industrial action across education.

He said: “These are not strikes that are taking place in the traditional sectors.

“We’re not talking about people who are by any account militant.

“We’re talking about educators, people who really want to be in, doing their job.

“But quite frankly, we all need to be paid enough to live, thrive and survive.”

He said a tax on the top one per cent of earners could have a positive effect on public services like education.