Workers at Lambeth College have forced a new offer from bosses in a bitter row over new contracts.
They began an indefinite strike against the contracts, which slash sick pay, cut holidays and impose longer working hours, today, Monday.
The UCU union members were set to discuss the offer on Wednesday of this week.
Mandy Brown is branch secretary of Lambeth College UCU. She told Socialist Worker, “This is the best offer we’ve had. Everyone’s won something.
“It guarantees that the new contracts won’t be imposed on existing staff. And it makes concession on sick pay.
“We’ve put up a fantastic fight in the face of a stubborn principal.
“And although support from our national union was great before the summer, it was dropped after the summer strike. This is just one battle in a bigger struggle.”
Striker Mario told Socialist Worker, “It’s not a complete victory. But I’m proud of what we’ve achieved.”
Workers are also in dispute over punitive lesson observations. They are clear that the battle to defend conditions will continue whether they accept the new offer or not.
Striker Frank told Socialist Worker, “The observations are being used as a battering ram against us. They have no educational value and people are very angry.”
Workers rallied at the college’s Clapham site on Monday to mark the start of the action. The mood was determined and strikers felt their action has won real results.
Striker Jean told Socialist Worker, “Last year our principal Mark Silverman refused to guarantee that existing staff wouldn’t be put on the new contract. But we have been able to stick together and push him back. It shows why we need unions.”
Dolores added, “We have achieved a lot. “We’re not on the new contracts—that wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been on strike.”
Workers have been in dispute since April and struck for over five weeks last summer.
Their struggle has inspired workers across Britain. But many strikers were rightly bitter at the failure of their union leaders to deliver the kind of support and campaign that they need.
Mario said, “I’m absolutely disgusted with the union officials.
“They promised to organise a national speaking tour—but they did nothing about it. And our general secretary has been invisible. People want a fighting union, not suited negotiators.”
But he added that strikers won overwhelming support from ordinary trade unionists.
“I haven’t seen this level of solidarity since the Miners’ Strike,” he said. It shows that up and down the country there is a willingness to fight.”