Socialist Worker

Tower Hamlets and Camden council workers and teachers unite to fight

by Tom Walker
Issue No. 2245

On the battle bus in Tower Hamlets  (Pic: Smallman )

On the battle bus in Tower Hamlets (Pic: Guy Smallman)

A key battle against the cuts was set to take place across two London boroughs this week.

Council workers and teachers in Tower Hamlets, east London, were to strike together against the cuts on Wednesday.

And teachers in Camden, north London, were to strike on the same day.

Around 6,000 workers were due to take part in the action.

For some teachers in Camden, the threat of strikes was enough to score a victory.

Employers in voluntary-aided (VA) schools, state-funded schools run by a foundation or a trust, granted two concessions.

They promised that if a teacher was sacked they would be redeployed elsewhere.

They also said that all services would be bought in from the council, instead of using private companies.

VA schools make up around 40 percent of Camden schools.

These are important gains. But it means that all Camden teachers were not out on strike together.

And the battle against cuts in other Camden schools continues.

The united strikes in Tower Hamlets and Camden are a model. They should to be replicated across Britain to beat the cuts.

Tower Hamlets Unison union secretary John McLoughlin said (in a personal capacity), “Being out together with the teachers is a big boost. A lot of people have joined the union.”

Tower Hamlets council workers are fighting more than 500 job losses that will destroy local services. They face over £75 million of cuts.


The dozens of teachers who face redundancy in Camden and Tower Hamlets include many who support children with special needs.

East London NUT teachers’ union secretary Alex Kenny says, “These are essential services. If we lose these services, education in Tower Hamlets schools will be diminished.”

“Spending cuts will damage education in Camden,” added Camden NUT secretary Andrew Baisley. “Our schools cannot afford these cuts.”

Union activists have fought hard for action. They argue that the cuts are just the start.

Members in both Tower Hamlets and Camden NUT branches voted to strike by 85 percent.

Tower Hamlets council workers in Unison voted by 75 percent to strike.

Tower Hamlets workers showed they were up for the fight when up to 800 marched from the borough to join the TUC protest last Saturday.

Unison activist Diana Swingler says, “I think the march made a huge difference.

“You feel people are turning into activists. People are excited about picketing. And lots more people in other unions have been saying they won’t cross any picket lines.”

The borough is the third most deprived area in Britain. People are angry that the council is making cuts while the bankers rake in billions.

Activists toured local workplaces on an open-top bus last Friday and found lots of support.

Teachers, Unison reps and members, local anti-cuts activists and students were on the bus.

They visited workplaces including the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, Queen Mary university, Poplar College and the council itself.

At Bow Locks mail centre, postal workers gave them a warm welcome, clapping and cheering. They came out of the office to hear the activists speak about solidarity.

“Thank god you’re here—this is what we need,” said one post worker. Royal Mail wants to shut the Bow Locks office in its latest round of closures.

“You really lifted the mood in the office,” a union rep there told them afterwards.

“The TUC march showed that unions are capable of mobilising huge numbers who support what we’re fighting for,” says John McLoughlin.

“What we’ve been able to do in a small way, coordinating action, could be done on a much bigger scale.”

Boroughs of protest

Pickets are planned in Tower Hamlets from 7am on the day. A protest will assemble at 11am in Weavers Fields, Bethnal Green, E2 6HW.

Strikers and supporters will march through the borough to a rally at the London Muslim Centre on Whitechapel Road.

Speakers were to include NUT general secretary Christine Blower and PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka.

Meanwhile, strikers in Camden will assemble at 10.30am for a march from Crowndale Centre, Eversholt Street, NW1 to Camden Town Hall.

Email messages of support to

Tower Hamlets Unison at

Tower Hamlets NUT at and

Camden NUT at

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Article information

Tue 29 Mar 2011, 18:01 BST
Issue No. 2245
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