Workers at Lambeth College in south London are preparing for an all-out strike against hated contracts imposed by bosses.
It’s a fight for every trade unionist in Britain.
Bosses got a court injunction to stop UCU union members beginning an all-out strike at the start of the month. They held an angry and upbeat one-day strike instead. Workers see their fight as about more than just contracts—it’s about the right to take action too.
Janet Koike is a lecturer at the Vauxhall site of the college. She told Socialist Worker, “I’m furious with our principal. He’s tried to take away our right to strike.
“There was some concern that the injunction might dampen things down. But it didn’t—there was an awful lot of energy in our strike.”
The new contracts impose longer hours and shorter holidays, along with attacks on sick pay and other conditions. Lecturers say life in the college is hard enough as it is.
“You feel like you’re working on a factory floor,” explained lecturer Simon Clarke. “You find yourself doing more and more work. There’s pressure put on people to take on extra responsibilities—and the stress kicks in.”
Workers are also angry at the impact the attacks have on students. Simon described further education as the “Cinderella service of the education system”.
“I’ve always been proud to work for an organisation that gives people second chances,” he said. “But because of cuts we’re losing courses. The range of courses is narrowing.”
UCU members are reballoting for an indefinite strike. The ballot ends on 23 May. Workers in the Unison union backed strikes by 83 percent in a ballot last week.
The UCU has called a national demonstration in support of the workers for Saturday of this week.
Workers have received solidarity messages and donations from across Britain and the world.
Angus is a lecturer at the Clapham site and has worked for the college for 25 years. “We’ve had lots of messages of support,” he said.
“People around Britain are watching. I think the union can win.”
Mandy Brown is branch secretary of Lambeth UCU and works at the Brixton site. She told Socialist Worker, “We are calling on all colleges and the wider trade union movement to support us. Please send your union banners and a delegation to the demonstration on Saturday.
“A big demonstration will be a great boost to us. This isn’t just an issue for Lambeth College—the injunction used against us is a threat to all workers.”
We’re backing Lambeth
Workers are rallying behind the Lambeth College strike.
NUT union member Fran Byrne gave out leaflets to support them in Brixton last Saturday. “Bosses are attacking terms and conditions to pave the way for privatisation,” she said.
“When we see them attacking Lambeth College workers, we know we’ll be next. That’s why a lot of people want everybody to go on strike together.”
Many trade unionists pledged long-term financial backing for the strikers at a rally in Brixton earlier this month. Sean Vernell from City and Islington College said his union branch had recommended members pledge £10 a week for the duration of a strike.