A huge battle is underway in Tower Hamlets College, east London.
Lecturers have been on all-out, indefinite strike for over a week to save jobs and defend education—and their resolve is hardening.
Workers, community groups and students are collecting money and raising support, spurring the strikers on.
Solidarity has been tremendous. Some £4,000 was raised in the first few days of action. Strikers collected £1,000 at just three sites at Westminster Kingsway college. £660 has been collected so far at London Metropolitan University. Workers on the Docklands Light Railway collected £50 for the strikers.
Post workers are refusing to deliver or collect mail from the college.
As well as one off collections, a £10 levy has been called by UCU London Region for all London UCU members.
Jill was part of a delegation that went to Croydon college to build support for the strike. “I was surprised at how eager they were to help us,” she told Socialist Worker.
“They said that everyone was watching what was happening at Tower Hamlets.
“I find I’m getting more determined as the days go by. We’ve invested so much in this battle—I think if we stay out then we can win.”
“Management thought we were going to fall apart and we haven’t,” Richard McEwan, a branch secretary of the UCU union at the college, told Socialist Worker.
“They have taken a tough stance but we can win.”
Planned cuts at Tower Hamlets College, which is in the poorest borough in Britain, would hit some of the most vulnerable people in the community. Up to 1,000 places for English for Speakers of Other Languages (Esol) would go.
The fight against the cuts has won widespread support.
Tracy, a maths lecturer at the college, told Socialist Worker, “We’ve been everywhere collecting money, even workers in the pubs and shops are donating for us.
“I came to Tower Hamlets college because it is community-based—a lot of people did the same. That’s what’s under threat.”
Workers held a mass meeting on Wednesday of last week and voted overwhelmingly to continue the action.
Teaching is supposed to begin on Thursday of this week. If students turn up to classes and find that there are no lecturers to teach them it will put massive pressure on college management.
Amanda from the hair and beauty department is one of 13 lecturers who received letters over the summer holidays informing them that they were being made redundant. “I think we need to stay out on strike when teaching starts,” she told Socialist Worker.
“That will have a big impact. I’m not just on strike for my job. I think there will be more cuts to come. It will be a sad day for Tower Hamlets if the cuts go through.”
Magdalena, a maths lecturer, added, “If we force them to reinstate the 13 lecturers it will be a big defeat for them. It will also be a little defeat for the government.”
The level of active involvement in the strike is impressive. “The strike belongs to the mass of the members,” said Richard McEwan.
Workers hold picket meetings every morning at each of the three sites where they have picket lines—Poplar, Arbour Square and Bethnal Green. Then every afternoon, people from each site come together for a general meeting to discuss the strike.
Over 100 people came to a public meeting in support of the strikers on Thursday of last week.
A victory at Tower Hamlets College will give confidence to workers everywhere and show that militant action can get results.
The strike needs your support. Get a Tower Hamlets striker into your college, union branch or workplace to talk about the struggle and raise support.
Go around your canteen or staff room and collect money for the strike fund.
Circulate the petition supporting the Tower Hamlets strikers and send messages of support.
Bring a group of workers and your union banner to the picket lines.
Everyone can do something to build support for the strike—and in doing so can raise the confidence of other workers to fight back.
Join the support rally this Saturday 12 September, 2pm, Altab Ali Park with George Galloway MP and strikers.
Send messages of support firstname.lastname@example.org and send solidarity money to Strike Fund, c/o Keith Priddle, Tower Hamlets College, Arbour Square, London E1 0PT