Workers braved stormy picket lines at the College of North West London (CNWL) today, Thursday, as they struck to defend their union rep.
Bosses suspended UCU union branch secretary Indro Sen in October last year. Workers see it as an attempt to weaken the union so management can ram through job cuts and a merger with the City of Westminster College.
Sen told Socialist Worker, “I was suspended on 10 October. On 12 October there was a governors’ meeting to agree to the merger. The timing is so obvious.”
The official reason for Sen’s suspension is that he took unauthorised leave to attend a meeting with a sacked worker. “My line manager arranged cover for it,” said Sen. “Another manager sat next to me in the meeting. They never said, ‘Sen you shouldn’t be here’.”
Support worker Angela has been at the college for 13 years. “Sen has always defended staff, not only in the UCU but in other unions,” she told Socialist Worker.
“He has been so active in fighting compulsory redundancies. I think this is a deliberate ploy to attack the head of the union.”
Bernard, another UCU member, agreed. “Sen is a big defender of the rights of staff and of students,” he said. “The management say the merger isn’t about cost-cutting. But we fear it will mean cuts.”
Strikers first struck in defence of Sen last month. They plan to involve local people in a battle not only to defend their rep but to protect the college.
Striker Sam said, “We want to make clear that the merger shouldn’t happen. It’s not in the interests of students or teachers.
“In almost all other mergers there has been a loss of jobs and a loss of courses. We have to question whose interests this merger is in.”
Strikers have already suffered over a decade of cuts. They explained how the attacks are creating chaos in the college—and hurting students’ education.
Angela said, “We’re always having redundancies. The first round was in 2006. They got rid of some people before Christmas—including the receptionists.
“There’s now no permanent person to answer the phones. And they have scrapped so many courses. Some students have 15 different teachers in a year because it’s college policy to have hourly-paid lecturers instead of permanent ones.”
She added that there are now six vice principals at the college. Meanwhile workers haven’t had a pay rise in ten years.
Striker Linda said, “There are more managers than teachers. They won’t have anyone left to manage soon. There’s no middle management—there are the queen bees and then all the workers.”
But workers remain determined to challenge bosses. Sen said, “We had a branch meeting yesterday and declared a further dispute over fraud.
“Some 300,000 has gone missing. We have 78 students who were supposed to receive NVQ courses in Maths and English—they have been given nothing.
“At the heart of this, our students and teachers have suffered.”
Reballots have opened the way to bigger struggle