Socialist Worker

Back to work at Lambeth College, but workers say 'it’s not over'

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2412

Lambeth College workers at the Brixton campus returning to work

Lambeth College workers at the Brixton campus returning to work (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Strikers at Lambeth College have returned to work. The UCU union members had been on indefinite strike since 3 June at the south London college against hated new contracts.

The contracts slash holidays, cut sick pay and impose longer working hours on staff. Strikers met and decided to return to work after rejecting what they described as an “insulting” offer from bosses. 

Many were worried about not receiving pay over the summer break if they continued the strike.

But a fresh attack by college principal Mark Silverman has only added to their anger. 

Silverman threatened to scrap courses for disabled students and those taking English for Speakers of Other Languages (Esol) if workers carried on fighting his attacks.

In a letter to the UCU he wrote, “If there is any serious risk that there will be a call for any significant industrial action in the autumn term, then we are likely to take the decision to not provide courses in either Esol or LLD.

“We will recommend they go to another college. If we do not run the provision all staff in those areas will be at risk of redundancy.”

Mandy Brown is branch secretary of the UCU at Lambeth College. She told Socialist Worker, “These are courses that teach the most vulnerable students. 

Exposed

“Silverman has exposed himself as not caring about the impact on students or on college funding.”

Frank, another striker, told Socialist Worker that Silverman’s move was “intimidation”. 

But despite all the threats, workers remain determined to fight. College workers and supporters met at each of the three college sites—Brixton, Clapham and Vauxhall—on Wednesday morning last week. Frank said, “We’ll walk in with our heads up high.

“We’re still fighting. It’s not over.”

Jim is a Unison union member at the college. Unison members struck for five days against the contracts during the UCU indefinite strike. 

“It’s had a strong impact,” he told Socialist Worker.

“We’re not going to accept an unacceptable deal. And if they do this here, other colleges will try and do the same. We’re not going to let other colleges down.”

Workers plan to re-ballot and strike in the autumn if the dispute is not resolved. 

Strikers won massive support from across the union movement and their action had a big impact on the college.

The mood when they returned was angry and determined to keep fighting. 

Activists will have to fight to sustain that over the coming months.


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