London FE colleges hit by six strikes

UCU members in Further Education report on strikes that took place across London yesterday

Picket line at Lewisham College. Photo: Ian Croon
Picket line at Lewisham College. Photo: Ian Crosson

Seven London Further Education colleges took coordinated strike action yesterday against course closures and massive job cuts. Members of the University and Colleges Union (UCU) have been campaigning since the election in May against draconian cuts to college budgets, most notably the 24% budget cut that hits funding for adults.

Hackney Community College, Greenwich, the College of North West London, the College of North East London, Croydon College and Lewisham and Southwark College all took strike action today. These strikes followed a strong strike by the UCU branch at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College on Thursday 18 June.

Elsewhere, Bradford and Barnsley colleges in Yorkshire, and Mid-Cheshire branch have all voted for strike action and will be joining further action on 30th June.

Pete Bicknell writes:

UCU at Lewisham Southwark College took their fourth day of action against compulsory redundancies today. Picket lines went well, and Josie Long (the comedian) came to speak at Lewisham Way. The numbers of potential redundancies have reduced from where we were a few weeks ago but it’s still in the region of 80 plus. The campaign includes the fight against the outright closure of Trade Union Studies and significant cuts to Foundation Studies staff and staff in support services. We’re also fighting against the closure of the Camberwell campus. Following a meeting today between UCU reps, the regional official and management yesterday afternoon, members are meeting today to discuss the way forward.

The community campaign we’ve had alongside the union action has been very effective for organising protests and other events in the local boroughs. It’s called Defend Lewisham Southwark College and there’s a public Facebook page for this.

Some London UCU branches have avoided compulsory redundancies for this academic year.  These include Westminster Kingsway, South Thames College, Tower Hamlets, Lambeth and City and Islington College. These guarantees reveal the strength that teachers have when they strike, disrupting the workings of their colleges, which worries managements. However, these colleges have still lost vital jobs, and consequently education places, through a series of voluntary redundancies which will damage communities and opportunities for people already badly hit by the Tory government.

UCU members fear that, if allowed to succeed, these cuts could lead to the decimation of the sector. At present, adults can sign up for courses such as English as a second language or vocational courses which offer them a second chance to succeed. If the government’s austerity programme is not challenged, many adults face a dismal future in low-paid work or unemployment.

Workers in colleges will face many challenges in the next academic year to defend jobs, education provision and further education itself under more promised cuts. Many colleges may look to the example of Lewisham and Southwark College, where the campaign has successfully drawn on support from the local community.



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