Workers at Lambeth College have entered their fifth week of indefinite strike against hated new contracts.
The action, by UCU union members, is having a huge impact at the south London college. Classes are cancelled and enrolment is running at just 2.5 percent of the target.
College figures show that some 25 workers have joined the strike since it began on 3 June.
“It’s amazing that we’ve increased the number on strike,” said striker John. “People are pretty confident that we can get a result.”
A day of action in support of the strikers on Wednesday of last week saw workers stage protests across Britain. More than 1,000 messages of support were posted on a UCU “wall of solidarity”.
Four London UCU branches met and agreed with the idea of taking unofficial action if any striker is victimised. This shows the potential for calling action on a bigger scale.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt met strikers on Wednesday of last week. Striker Alan said the meeting was “a real boost”.
But strikers need more than warm words. They have faced an onslaught of pressure from principal Mark Silverman since the strike began.
They need the union to throw its resources behind the strike and pile the pressure on Silverman. Strikers have raised over £30,000 for their strike fund. The union could more than double that and give workers more confidence to keep fighting.
The key question is what happens next. Term ends on Friday of next week. Strikers are discussing whether they should stay out on strike over the summer break.
There are some worries about doing this, but it isn’t pie in the sky. Sally Hunt has raised the idea of the strike continuing and workers receiving strike pay through the summer.
Alan said it would “terrify” Silverman if strikers decided to continue the action.
Workers have the power to win. Ramping up the pressure on Silverman can score a victory much more quickly.
The stakes are high. The new contracts impose longer working hours, slash sick pay and cut holidays. But life at Lambeth College is hard enough already—and the attacks are affecting students’ education.
“We are working in fear,” said one striker. “You worry that someone is going to ask for this or that bit of paperwork that there hasn’t been time to do.
“You need to be creative in this job to do it well, but there’s no time for that anymore.”
Technician Anne joined a three-day strike by Unison union members at the college last week. “The students work in really cramped spaces,” she told Socialist Worker.
“If they’re working on machines, it’s hard to keep an eye on them. But if we complain the response is—‘we won’t run the course then’.”
If Lambeth strikers lose, bosses everywhere will feel emboldened to go on the offensive. If they win, workers everywhere will be able to raise their heads a little higher—that’s why this matters for everyone.