Lambeth College workers began a three-day strike on Tuesday of this week in a battle to defend their contracts.
The UCU union members are fighting principal Mark Silverman’s attempts to bring in new, worse contracts.
The walkout follows a successful two-day strike last week. And if Silverman doesn’t back down, workers plan to begin an indefinite strike from Monday of next week.
Mandy Brown is branch secretary of Lambeth College UCU.
She told Socialist Worker, “We are getting lots of support—more people were asking for leaflets as they passed our picket line.
“And there are very few people in the college who support Silverman.”
Striker Jim added, “People in the union feel confident and are still very much behind the strikes.
“But it’s almost like management are hoping that we’ll just cave in and go back to work.”
Workers say conditions went downhill after Silverman arrived —and that he is treating the college as a business. “We used to have educational debates about what the college was for,” explained one striker.
“But this management are a different breed. Staff morale has gone right down.
“Some of the best teachers have left because they are so fed up. It’s not like a place of education anymore.”
Strikers say crumbling buildings and lack of resources are adding to workers’ anger—and infuriating students.
In Brixton, workers and students have lost one of the college blocks to a free school. “Our students can see the classrooms they used to have lying empty,” said one picket.
“Meanwhile our classrooms are leaking.”
Strikers have been buoyed by news that two senior managers have resigned, and feel they have bosses on the back foot.
Striker Juliet told Socialist Worker, “I just feel that we’re in the right and he’s in the wrong.
“Also this is not just for us. We’ve got lots of support from other colleges because they know if this happens here, it will come to them.”
Workers are awaiting the official result from a recent visit by schools’ inspectorate Ofsted.
They think this could help to pile the pressure on Silverman.
Silverman’s new contracts slash sick pay and holidays, and impose longer working hours. He claims they will only apply to new staff—but strikers are defending decent conditions for all.
Mandy said, “If Silverman doesn’t want an indefinite strike he has to stop ignoring the unions.
“He hasn’t spoken to the union since 6 October.”
Strikers are appealing for other college workers to make sure their bosses don’t supply scabs to undermine their action.
Mandy added, “We need a good press campaign and for our general secretary to be visiting our picket lines.
“We are also asking for everyone to ask their MP to sign an Early Day Motion on Lambeth College put forward by John McDonnell MP.”
Everyone can do something to back the Lambeth strikers. Send a message of support, collect for their strike fund and visit the picket lines.
A win at Lambeth can boost workers everywhere.