Workers at a south London college were set to begin an indefinite strike on Thursday of this week.
UCU union members at Lambeth College unanimously backed the action at a packed meeting last week.
They are striking against new contracts imposed by bosses.
Mandy Brown is branch secretary of Lambeth UCU. She told Socialist Worker, “The mood in the college is determined. People are angry at how management are treating them. But they also know that we can beat them.”
The new contracts could set a dangerous precedent for college workers everywhere if not defeated.
They include longer hours, a longer week and shorter holidays.
The contracts slash sick pay, cut the notice period for redundancies and introduce a link between incremental pay rises and “capability”.
Mandy explained that the contracts affect new workers and those who are promoted, want to change their hours or are hourly-paid.
But she added, “Management documents state that the new contract may be rolled out across the board for existing staff.
“They might have hoped to divide us by claiming to target some groups and not others. Instead they have united us against them.”
Unison union members at the college are balloting to join the strike. UCU members also struck on 1 April. Frank Innes was picketing at the Brixton site. “I’ve worked here for 14 years and I’m really struggling with the workload now,” he said.
“People are very angry. Conditions are being squeezed. If we don’t fight now, we may as well pack up and go home.”
But the anger among workers goes beyond the contracts.
Bosses have sold off part of the college building in Brixton—and it could be turned into one of Michael Gove’s privately-run free schools.
The move will make it even harder for vulnerable people to access further education.
“I teach people with learning disabilities,” said Frank. “This college is a space where they can meet other people and develop social skills.
“But now for management it’s all about business—how much money can we make?”
Akua Rugg has taught at the college since 1990. “It seems there’s money to fund a free school but not money for a college,” she told Socialist Worker.
“If the Brixton site goes, people won’t be able to afford the fares to travel to Clapham.”
Support for the strike is crucial.
“We have received an overwhelming number of messages of support,” said Mandy. “They have come from colleges, universities, schools, trade unions and individuals all over Britain, as well as local students and community groups.”
Workers were set to hold a mass picket at 7am at the Clapham centre of the college, and a solidarity rally at 6pm on Thursday at the Karibu Centre in Brixton.