Workers at the largest sixth form college in London have unanimously voted for 30 days of strikes. NEU union members at NewVic in Newham, east London, plan to strike three days a week for ten weeks from the beginning of the summer term in April.
Workers began a series of strikes at the beginning of the month to defend their working conditions—and students’ education—from a series of management attacks. The unprecedented move shows workers’ strength of feeling and that they recognise a hard-hitting programme of action is necessary to win.
This is the third dispute in the last 12 months at NewVic. Workers have had to fight on many fronts, but they have grown stronger and more experienced. One picket said, “We have been galvanised and we are showing we know what we are doing is correct. We know it’s not just ourselves, other places have similar problems. We hope they can strike like us and win victories.”
The key to workers’ confidence is the meetings, the pickets and the strike rallies. At a meeting on the first three-day strike, over 25 NEU members discussed the issues without any wavering, and ideas about how to strengthen their action. One worker said, “The head’s been trying to divide us, but we’ve got allies. Everyone in there knows how bad he is.”
Another striker said, “We are resolute and united and we’re clear on what we want. We want to put an end to intimidatory behaviour of management. It’s been a long time. We are going to win now we’re going for the three days a week’.
NewVic has provided education for working class students, in one of London’s poorest boroughs, for years. But workers say this has become impossible with a management that cares only about money, sees the students as data and has no connection with education. They delivered an overwhelming vote of no-confidence in the principal in January.
Workers plan a mass meeting on Tuesday 18 April, the first strike day in the summer term. They’re organising to get as many strikers as possible to it—as well as students, parents and carers, other trade unionists and local councillors. They have asked NEU joint general secretaries Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted to join too.
A big show on the first day of 30 days action will encourage our side and bring maximum pressure to bear on the college management. This strike must win.
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