Socialist Worker

Reports of school and college strikes across London on 28 March

Schools and colleges across London are striking today (Wednesday) against government plans to make people pay more and work longer for less pension.

Issue No. 2296

Teachers on the picket line in London (Pic: http://www.guysmallman.com/Guy Smallman )

Teachers on the picket line in London (Pic: Guy Smallman)



Schools

The strike has had a big impact on many schools in Tower Hamlets.

Paul McGarr is a National Union of Teachers (NUT) member at Langdon Park School. He said, “The strike in Tower Hamlets is reasonably solid.

“At my school Unison union members came and stood on the picket line with us to show support.”

Many schools in Lambeth were disrupted due to the strike. One picket reported that members of different teaching unions said they were considering joining the NUT because their unions weren’t striking.

In one Lambeth school, Unison members refused to cross the picket line and joined the strike.

Teachers also say that the mood among strikers is hardening.

Jess Edwards teaches in Lambeth. She said, “At London Nautical School strikers put a big banner across the door. Anyone going in had to crawl under it.

“A school in Birmingham that twinned with the school sent NUT members boxes of chocolates with the message, ‘Thank you for going on strike’.”


Kingston University

Between 30 and 40 people were on the picket at Kingston University. Students joined staff outside the main entrance. Pickets got a good reception with vehicles honking as they passed. But some staff went in and the building remained open.

Fran Manning


Southwark College

About 18 pickets were outside Southwark College. Strikers said they are 'under the cosh' from management. They have a separate dispute with their management about observations by business consultants.

Many were frustrated that their union leadership hasn't called national action.

But the atmosphere was positive, smiling and full of camaraderie.

Nicola Field


Lambeth College

The strike was solid at Lambeth College. Mandy Brown is a UCU union rep at the college. She told Socialist Worker, “Only a handful of people have gone in today. The mood around the strike has been brilliant.

“But there’s some anger and confusion that the strike isn’t national. It’s clear that lecturers across Britain wanted to be out.”

Gary Whiting, branch chair of Lambeth Unison union, came to the picket line to show support. “It’s unfortunate that we’re not part of the strike,” he said.

“On 30 November the strike was very good. I’ve been in the branch for 16 years and it’s the first time I’d seen people so active. It wasn’t just the usual suspects organising it.

“It’s important to show support for strikers today so they don’t feel isolated.”

Akua Rugg has taught at the college for 22 years. She said, “The attacks on pensions are part of an attack on all workers. And it’s important to defend education.

“Politicians talk about ‘feral’ youth and rioters. What do they think will happen if people have no chance of an education?”

Gosha, an Esol teacher at the college, said she worried about how the pension changes would affect younger workers. She said, “The government says there’s no money. But apparently there are corporations not paying taxes. They could find some money if they wanted to.”

Sadie Robinson


Greenwich Community College

There were about 20 people on the picket line on Wednesday morning at Greenwich Community College. The lively nature of the picket was helped by protest songs. We sang 'Solidarity forever' with great gusto forcing management to close their windows on this lovely sunny day.

Some from the local trades council, PCS and Unison joined us for a while. A few workers said they would join UCU and we have actually recruited about 15 over the last year.

We twinned with Bradford FE College who have sent messages of solidarity, support and collected money for us towards breakfasts.

Lynne Chamberlain, Branch Committee, UCU Greenwich Community College


Tower Hamlets college

Around 20 UCU members picketed the main site at Tower Hamlets college. They were visited by Unison members and a representative of the Poplar Harca housing campaign.

'It's very solid and well supported,' said Ian Crosson, UCU membership secretary at the college. 'There's a determination we must carry on the campaign.

'The budget has reinforced people's anger. Why is the government supporting the rich and doing nothing for the rest of us?'

Workers at the college are angry about more than just pensions. They are angry at proposals from management to make it easier to sack workers. The Access course is also under threat.

Rich Palser, an Access teacher, said, 'There are adults who want to come into higher education if they didn't have access before or to reinforce their skills.

'But now the door is being closed. Government talks about widening access but their plans will have a major effect on people wanting to go to university.

'People are also aware of the regional pay rates. That's one way to cut the wages of all workers. So this isn't a selfish strike for our pensions.'

But there was also disappointment that other unions hadn't joined the UCU and NUT action.

Eugene Smith, a maths lecturer, said, 'I feel the other unions let us down. I don't understand why Unite and Unison aren't out. I'm surprised at the PCS too.

Wojtek Dmochowski, an ESOL teacher, agreed. 'People are very disappointed its London wide only,' he said.

Patrick Ward


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