UCU union members at the University of East London (UEL) staged a two-day strike this week in a fight to save jobs.
Bosses want to impose heavy redundancies. The strike comes as workers in universities and colleges across Britain face attacks on jobs, pay and conditions.
Over 230 people joined an online strike rally on Monday. Workers and students spoke alongside Greater London Authority member Unmesh Desai and Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz.
UEL worker Anna said bosses have made “cut after cut” since 2013 and that it is now “impossible to get our work done in our working hours”.
“We’ve seen our admin teams cut to the bone,” she said.
“Students have less and less support. Students in distress have waited days or weeks for appointments.”
UEL student Amal said students have supported others experiencing serious mental health problems because the university is not.
“This isn’t our job,” she said. “The university needs to start listening to students and put support in.”
Monia, a student from India, described how she had been forced to rely on a local food bank to get by.
“UEL and management are not supporting students,” she said. “We’ve come so far to have a better life.”
UEL worker Molly Andrews, one of those threatened with redundancy, said compulsory redundancies are “sweeping the sector”.
Like many, she said the union must wage a national fight to defend workers.
Many of those facing redundancy are UCU reps. Richard McEwan, a UCU rep at New City College, said the attacks are “victimisation plain and simple”.
He added that workers are going to have to fight the Tories’ push to get them back into unsafe workplaces. “Branches are capable of fighting back when they’re supported by the union,” he argued.
“The challenges are too great for us to rely on a branch by branch strategy.”
He said some in UCU argued that the union needs more members before it can take effective action. Richard said this is a “fallacy”.
“Unions grow when they’re fighting back,” he said.
Chichester College battles cuts
UCU union members at Chichester College Group are balloting for strikes over job cuts.
Bosses plan to axe ten full time equivalent jobs in Maths and English—40 percent of the department. They also plan further cuts.
UCU regional official Michael Moran said bosses are “trying to use the pandemic to push through dangerous cuts”.
The union says that the college had an operating surplus of £5.7 million in its most recently available accounts from 2019.
Stop victimisation at Shrewsbury College
Workers at Shrewsbury Colleges Group were set to strike on Wednesday of this week to defend victimised NEU union rep John Boken.
John was suspended after he raised complaints about racism in the college. NEU union members voted overwhelmingly to back strikes to defend him.
John’s victimisation is one of a number of attacks on NEU reps.
Schools strike over safety
NEU union members at Barrow Hedges School in Sutton began a two-day strike on Tuesday of this week. The walkout was the first of six planned strike days over coronavirus and home working.
The school has said it will not allow staff to work from home when schools fully reopen if their children have to isolate.
NEU members at Langley School in Birmingham were also set to strike on Wednesday over health and safety issues.