Around 70 campaigners lobbied Bill Rammell, the local Harlow MP and minister for lifelong learning, last Saturday over attacks on lecturers at Harlow College.
Lecturers, students and parents came to support the Harlow college lecturers, who are fighting the imposition of new contracts that will mean working longer hours for up to £10,000 less.
Bill Rammell addressed the protest. But he refused to say that he supported the lecturers. Instead he said that he was calling on management to negotiate.
According to lecturers from the college there have been increasing levels of intimidation from management. Many had kept away from the protest through fear of losing their jobs.
More lecturers have been formally disciplined in the last six months than in the previous six years.
A lecturer from the college told Socialist Worker, “I’ve been teaching at Harlow College for ten years, and I want to keep teaching.
“But if the new contracts are imposed I will have no choice but to leave.
“I think that it is absolutely disgusting that the new management think they can get away with this.”
After the lobby lecturers and their supporters held a public meeting.
Paul Hughes, the chair of Harlow UCU lecturers’ union branch, told the meeting, “Gordon Brown said this week that education was his passion – well he should prove it.
“The principal has refused to negotiate with the union.
“He has, however, found the time to meet with lawyers to find out what are the absolute minimum conditions for us he can legally get away with.
“The contracts that he is attempting to impose mean more hours, less pay, less holidays and will affect lecturers pensions.
“Bill Rammell says that he has attempted to bring the principal to the table, but he must safeguard the future of education in Harlow.”
Supporters from outside Harlow joined the lecturers.
Darren, a lecturer from Croydon College, told the meeting, “Our union meeting last week voted unanimously to bring in a £10 levy to support you – we have raised £340 so far.
“Lecturers at Croydon are absolutely behind you. There is a mood for a fight.”
Cliff, a lecturer from London Metropolitan University, said, “We had the same fight at our college – management wanted to impose new contracts.
“We fought, and we got our negotiated contracts.
“That shows that when you act, you can show management that you have power. You have our support and you can win.”
Lecturers are also concerned about the effect that the setting of targets is having on education and students.
A Harlow College lecturer said, “There are first year students who second year lecturers are refusing to take on in case they fail – and upset their percentages.
“You can’t run education on statistics. If management have its way this will be the future of the college.
“That is why we have to fight. It is about our pay and conditions, but it is also about the quality of education in the college.”
Harlow lecturers were set to up the pressure on management by striking on Thursday and Friday of this week.