Socialist Worker

Lambeth College workers begin new round of strikes against attack on their contracts

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2432

Pickets at Lambeth College on Thursday

Pickets at Lambeth College on Thursday (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Workers at Lambeth College struck yesterday, Thursday, against hated new contracts brought in by bosses. They plan to walk out again on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

The UCU union members, students and supporters mounted lively picket lines at the three sites of the South London college.

College principal Mark Silverman wants to impose new, worse contracts for new staff. They would slash holidays and sick pay, and force workers to work longer for no extra pay.

Striker Simon Clarke said the college had become an “intimidating” place to work, particularly for new people on probationary periods.

But the strength of workers’ most recent strike vote, where some 83 percent backed strikes, showed that workers have not been cowed.

Mandy Brown is UCU branch secretary at the college. She said, “Students are supporting us because they can see the difference between fancy new buildings for management and their own, which are falling apart.”

Students at the Brixton site plan to strike alongside their lecturers on Tuesday of next week.

Manuel, who is studying English for Speakers of Other Languages (Esol) at the college, told a strike rally at the college’s Clapham site why students are angry.


“Students have big problems with the system,” he said. “It’s not fair to students. That’s why 350 of us signed a petition to the clown—or the boss as he’s known. We got no reply. But on Tuesday, students will go to the streets.”

Many strikers described the increasingly worse conditions at the college. Pickets at Brixton said the opening of Trinity Academy at their site had made things worse.

“It is slowly encroaching on us all the time,” said one striker. “We used to have a toilet that students and staff at the college used. Now the academy has taken it over and put a key on it. So we’re locked out of our own toilet.

“Students have said they feel like they’re being treated like animals.”

Another striker added, “The roofs are leaking. The rooms are cold. We are proud of students who are saying enough is enough and will strike next week.”

Hated inspectorate Ofsted is due to inspect the college next week. Strikers were hoping that this pressure might force Silverman to retreat from his attack.

But they are determined to keep fighting against the contracts because the dispute has much wider implications.

As left wing Labour MP John McDonnell told strikers, “Management are trying to test the water to see how far they can cut. If they can get away with it here, every other management will do the same.”

Every bit of solidarity will make their struggle stronger.

Rush messages of support and requests for speakers to [email protected]. Make cheques payable to J Eldon and send to Mandy Brown, c/o Lambeth Trades Council, Hambrook House, Porden Road, London SW2 5RW. Join picket lines on the strike days at all three sites from 7am. 

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