Workers at a south London college are preparing for an indefinite strike to defend their pay and conditions. The UCU union members at Lambeth College walked out for 24 hours on Tuesday of this week—the day that bosses imposed new, worse contracts on them.
The contracts will mean longer working hours, two weeks less holidays and less sick pay.
Mandy Brown is branch secretary of Lambeth UCU and works at the college. She told Socialist Worker, “Over 50 percent of our members came to a branch meeting in February and voted unanimously for an indefinite strike. We’ll be meeting tomorrow to decide when to start the action after the Easter break.”
UCU members backed strikes by 95 percent in a recent ballot on a turnout of nearly 70 percent. Fury with management has boosted workers.
Frank Innes, who teaches people with learning difficulties at the college, was picketing in Brixton.
He told Socialist Worker, “The new contracts will mean teachers working an extra five or six weeks a year and they will cut two weeks from our holidays.
“We haven’t had a pay rise since 2009. Some class sizes have doubled. It all adds up.”
Frank said the attacks on workers were part of a longer term agenda. Bosses have already sold the Brixton building to the Department for Education—and there are plans for a free school to open there.
Over 100 people joined a protest to save the college and stop the free school on Thursday of last week (picture above). Strikers said the college gave many people who had found it hard to access education a second chance—and said the cuts would hit them the hardest.
Jane Trenfield has taught at Lambeth College for 15 years. She told Socialist Worker, “People who don’t speak much English won’t be confident to travel elsewhere to get to a class. It’s discriminating against people to make cuts here.”
“The long term plan is privatisation,” said Frank. “I get the impression they want to push out experienced staff.”
Akua Rugg has taught at Lambeth College since 1990 and was also picketing at Brixton. She told Socialist Worker that workers have the power to win. “A few years ago we struck over £400,000 budget cuts,” said Akua. “We were out for a month. We said we’d stay out until they put the money back—and they did.”
Frank agreed. “Management have tried this sort of thing in other colleges and lost,” he told Socialist Worker. "EIS members at Edinburgh College struck and won big pay rises recently. Lecturers at Tower Hamlets College went on all-out strike in 2000 and won.
“I’d rather lose three weeks’ wages than lose my career and see students lose their opportunities.”