After a month-long strike, educators at Leicester College in England plan to return to work, still in disagreement with management but recognizing that talks won’t continue while they’re outside the building. During the strike, picketers have acted gratefully, engaging in no shouting, verbal abuse, or violent behaviour towards colleagues who crossed picket lines. UK lecturer Isabel Pepperill-Clarke reiterated this peaceful resistance when interviewed, stating explicitly that she and her colleagues never resorted to any harassment. Approximately 20 picketers would gather every day on campus, distributing leaflets and standing in the winter cold for their "just" cause, which is not related to pay. While their colleagues in other regions were offered only 3.5% pay increases, which some rejected, Leicester tutors were offered a pay hike they did not refuse. The issue at hand is the college’s demand for educators to train and retrain for four unpaid days, and a perceived threat to their free time. College management has repeatedly claimed that the number of striking full-time tutors was "103," while strikers maintained that only "four" educators had returned to work out of 156 who initially walked out. College management further claims that tutors have 60 days of holiday per year, including public holidays, while the union asserts that the real figure is 48 days. There are currently 900 staff at Leicester College, with approximately 400 on full-time contracts. Throughout the strike, some courses have been covered by non-teaching staff, such as a librarian teaching photography and a university student with no teaching experience leading media studies classes. Management declares that 95% of courses are ongoing, but the union strongly contradicts this figure. The strike has been detrimental to students, forcing them to face delayed coursework and reconsider their academic goals.
Bhutt expressed his dissatisfaction towards the help he’s been receiving for his upcoming exams. He revealed that a university student with no prior teaching experience seems to be his only source of aid, which makes him feel bitter. He believes that both parties need to meet halfway to resolve the issue.
Marianne Harris-Bridge, the director of corporate affairs at Leicester College, stated that the management has already given in to some demands by reducing the retraining period from eight days to four. Additionally, she emphasized that the new contracts are voluntary for existing staff members. Only newcomers will be required to take a four-day cut in their holiday entitlement.
Harris-Bridge pointed out that the college must adapt to new educational developments brought upon by central government initiatives for 14-19-year-olds and the industry’s pressure to upskill and keep up with technological advancements. She added that some lecturers have not improved their skills in a while, and with 60 days of annual vacation, it is difficult to keep up with the changes and meet the standards required for these initiatives.
Despite the strike’s conclusion, it’s apparent that there is still much negotiating to do between the two parties.