LECTURERS were on the picket lines today in protest over pensions and pay.
University and College Union (UCU) members were at all the entrances to South Tyneside College this morning to discourage colleagues from going into work.
UCU branch secretary Jonathan Spink and his team were stopping staff at the South Shields site, while other members were at the college’s Hebburn campus.
Mr Spink said the majority of lecturers going to classes were marine college staff, who are not part of the union, and the car park was looking more empty than usual.
He added: “The union is pleased management have offered their sympathies with our action. After all, it affects their pensions as well.
“We are the first union to be striking against pensions and we are sure this will be the vanguard of the fight.
“It’s the start of a long battle, but once the other unions have their action, hopefully we can get a result.”
The UK-wide action involves UCU members in up to 500 colleges and universities.
Union members were holding up signs saying Join Us Now, Protect Your Pension and Hands Off Our Pension on the picket line.
This morning drivers were slowing down to sound their car horns in support of the lecturers.
Mr Spink added: “It’s great to see we have the support of the public, but we also have support from our Unison colleagues, who are unable to strike with us.
“Hearing members of the public tooting or shouting out words of support was very encouraging.”
Inclusive learning lecture Eve Smith joined the picket line this morning and said: “There have been a lot of changes happening lately. Our jobs should be valued.”
Colleague Louise Hanson added: “It’s not fair that teachers in schools got better pay rises. It feels like lecturers are not deemed as important.”
Principal Lindsey Whiterod said: “Part of our workforce has been affected by the strike today, so we are anticipating some disruption, with a number of classes being cancelled.
“The college is open for learners to access our resources and to continue their studies.
“As a college, we are sympathetic to our employees’ concerns relating to public sector pensions and the impact any proposed changes may have in the long term.”