Socialist Worker

Tower Hamlets college: Lecturers go all-out for education

by Richard McEwan, Tower Hamlets College UCU branch secretary (pc)
Issue No. 2166

Lecturers at Tower Hamlets College in east London are set to begin an all-out indefinite strike from Thursday of this week to defend education and jobs.

The college says it wants to make £2 million “efficiency savings”. But it has £6 million in the bank and an operating surplus of £283,000.

There are similar scenarios in colleges and universities across Britain. Bosses are making a clear choice between education and profit.

Our fight is one of many in the education sector, as both further and higher education are coming under mounting attacks.

Its outcome is important for every worker because it will shape the battles to come.

The strike by UCU union members follows a broad, community-based campaign to save 1,000 places in English language classes (Esol) and prevent over 40 compulsory redundancies.

UCU members also struck in the summer term.

The funding cuts will mean fewer places for students. Tower Hamlets has high unemployment and a very young population.

Many Esol students are women from black and minority backgrounds.


The planned cuts will lock many into a cycle of poverty and social exclusion.

Our campaign has made many gains so far.

These include protecting A-level core hours, reducing the number of redundancies, saving some Esol classes, stopping cuts to lecturers’ preparation time and saving the mentoring scheme.

Many workers at the college have joined the unions as they have led the fightback against the cuts. The size of the Unison union branch has doubled and the UCU has 50 more members.

The unions at the college have also taken up political issues, such as opposition to war and racism, which have helped form networks. This helped us to move very quickly when we heard the cuts were coming.

The slogan “Defend jobs, Defend education” has united teachers, support workers, students and the wider community. This is the source of our strength.

In the coming weeks we plan to hold lobbies and more local protests that can pull in wider layers of people into activity and link up with other workers who are on strike.

We will also send a large delegation to demonstrate outside the Labour Party conference in Brighton next month to show the government that we are determined to fight for education.

Send messages of support to Alison Lord at 07805 819 605 or email [email protected]Support meeting, 5pm, Thursday 3 September, St Mathias, Poplar High Street. Nearest station Poplar DLR

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Article information

Tue 25 Aug 2009, 19:23 BST
Issue No. 2166
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