UCU members at Tower Hamlets college, in East London, are on indefinite strike against cuts. The union reports:
"Tower Hamlets College faces indefinite strike action from Thursday 27 August after eleventh hour talks failed to resolve the ongoing row over job losses and cuts to English language courses.
Despite attempts from the UCU to negotiate with the college, the union said today that its members at Tower Hamlets have been left with no alternative but to walk out indefinitely.
The strike action has been targeted to coincide with the first day of enrolment at the college. The union said today that it is continuing to press for fresh talks with the college and reiterated that strike action was a desperate last resort. Funding cuts mean that around 1,000 places on courses for English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) are at risk. Thirteen people face losing their jobs and many thousands of people in Tower Hamlets will lose the opportunity to learn English – denying them the opportunity to fully integrate with the community".
Pickets will be held from 7.30am at the college's three sites, Poplar, Bethnal Green, and Arbour Square. Click here for more.
Education workers are NOT the new City bankers! by an education worker
Staff and students at Tower Hamlets College are on indefinite strike following shameless staff cuts, many within the ESOL department. The impact of this for non-English speakers in the community is drastic. This move falls in line with a tide of xenophobic government reforms around ESOL provision; part of the big fuzzy picture of "integration" that they like to contradict. Here’s a struggle to be had out in the midst of tightening immigration controls, rising popularity of the extreme racist-right and let’s not forgot the big "excuse"; this bastard recession.
But the compulsory redundancies at Tower Hamlets College were not directly implemented by local government, according to the workers at the picket line they were carried out by the college principal in the interest of budget and "performance". At the very end of term all teachers were told there would be compulsory redundancies made on the basis of "performance management." "Why not voluntary redundancies at least?" A teacher at the college expressed this morning (Friday 28 August). Why not?
So they warned staff that they were going to be scored and the lowest scorers would be axed. You can imagine how the staff felt. They were measured against such variables as student attendance (since when is it anything to do with your teaching if a student contracts swine flu?), sickness (you’re kidding right?) and flexibility... Flexibility! So the key to scoring high on flexibility is making sure you have no commitments outside (or inside) of working hours, especially any that might concern trade union organising.
One teacher who lost her job had apparently had her class split into two in the first term but the computer registration system had not been updated and so her class came up as consistently half full. This data was enough to prove her ineptitude, apparently.
To add insult to injury staff were told they had to go to a compulsory Professional Development training session after they had been warned of the cuts but not yet told who had been affected. This session was on ‘differentiation’ (a buzz word in education for ‘making lessons accessible to a range of learners with differing language and cognitive abilities’- ironic?) and it was to be facilitated by an external agency despite the fact that there were plenty of skilled up staff within the college who would have been able to run it. This showed staff that management were more interested in buying in external consultants than in retaining their staff and treating them with the respect they deserved. Apparently hell was raised in the session. Good.
It is the way management handled the announcement of the cuts that really sticks in the throat. They told the workers that if they were being made redundant they would receive a letter by courier at some point during the first Wednesday of the holidays. People waited all day for these letters. One worker thought she was safe when a courier arrived with the news at 10.30pm! They were presented with their score-sheets; they had a low score and this was their ‘punishment’. I don’t think the teachers who were kept on were ever able to view their own score-sheet. Funny that they didn’t give them all out at the end of term so they could have compared? I guess the holidays are a good time to hit exhausted demoralised workers alone in their homes.
It isn’t fair? Precisely. Call me a conspiracy theorist but the mere fact that the cuts were largely made within the ESOL department suggests that the ‘score-sheet’ tactic was all a ruse to make out that this was for the good of the students; to project an image which might mean that people revere management and keep tabs on their score. This is all part of the changing face of education work where surveillance and performance are used as ways to scare and to divide workers and it runs in tandem with privatisation; it’s all part of a programme to loosen the control that workers might have over their own workplace.
Well thankfully these workers will be not be divided on grounds of ‘performance’ like the city boys and girls. They know what they’re worth and they’re putting up a strong fight. If only Unison had got its act together to ballot a bit sooner than 2 WEEKS AFTER THE STRIKE the whole college would have been brought to a standstill during these first enrolment days... but never mind, we should be used to unions slowing each other down by now.
Everybody should support this strike. Education workers in particular, who’ve been swallowing the OFSTED pill for long enough , should stand united against bully-boy tactics like the ones displayed at Tower Hamlets College and say: ‘ We know what we’re doing , we know what you’re doing and we won’t be intimidated by you! ‘
For background on the struggle see http://defendjobsandeducation.posterous.com/ and https://london.indymedia.org/articles/1614
Join the facebook group at http://tinyurl.com/Facebook-THC
On a lively picket at the Arbour Square site, staff and supporters had conversations with thoughtful students making the difficult decision about whether to enrol, all wanting to support the strike, but many feeling worried about their course places. Rebecca Galbraith spoke to two of the students.
Jan Ducky was coming to enrol on the Access to Higher Education – social science and humanities. Jan is from the Czech Republic and is currently working as a hospital cleaner part time. He decided not to cross the picket line and instead joined the protest.
Why did you decide not to cross the picket line?
Because of solidarity, because of my solidarity to the teachers. Because education is the most important thing. I attended some meetings last month is SOAS, “Ideas for Freedom”, about strikes, unions, things like that. I heard some good ideas, and some unrealistic ones. But I decided that I want to support people, struggling not just for themselves, but for others. These teachers work for all of us, not just for themselves.
What are the reasons for the education cuts?
The excuse is the recession, the Ministry of Defence is over budget because of war and the MPs have spent the money on their expenses. So now they need to get the money from somewhere, they get it from poor people so that they can continue to support rich people.
How do you think we can win this strike?
It cannot be stopped with a small amount of people. Anyone asked not to go into college should not go in. We should show solidarity with those losing their jobs. Students in other colleges, all through the UK should support this. The Unions need to support all the colleges. It should not be about whether a college is “profitable”.
A lot of these cuts are directed at ESOL provision. Is ESOL important?
My English used to be bad, I’m still trying. I did ESOL entry 2 in Waltham forest and then in the Idea Store in Whitechapel. It is very important for me, it is very important for everybody. Some people think they speak good English but they don’t, the grammar is difficult. English is a useful language, if you want a job then you need to learn English. They cut the classes because they think it is for the poor class. People have good ideas, but they need support and education.
Dawn Guilfoyle was meant to be enrolling on the Pathways to Nursing Course, but she didn’t and spent her morning persuading other students not to enrol. Last year she took the Literacy Level 2 course at Tower Hamlets.
Why haven’t you enrolled today?
I did it in support of our staff, it is appalling how they have been treated. And to try and stop all the cuts. The just spent £40,000 at Tower Hamlets College on an air stewarding course, on buying a model aeroplane! That was £40,000 for nothing, it could have been spent on jobs. Mr Farley (the college principal) is trying to make students pay for courses. The likes of us on benefits can’t pay fees; that is why we come to this college.
Why are the cuts happening?
My Farley says it is a lack of funding. This is complete rubbish, we need to keep the staff in jobs.
What would you to say to other students to persuade them to do what you have?
Support the staff, if we work together there is nothing they can do. We need to defend the college for the future. This is one of very few colleges in Tower Hamlets. I have an 11 year old daughter and in five years she will be looking for a college. This is a good college, the staff are lovely, we need it.
What message would you like to give Mr Farley?
You are wrong in what you are doing! Re-think. Listen to the students and the staff, you need to keep the staff and stop what you are doing.
DAY 8 OF THE STRIKE....
Tuesday 8th September 9am - Picket outside the Idea Store, Whitechapel
Tuesday 8th September 10am - Jumble Sale and Fundraiser Meeting at the headquarters, Fieldgate Street
Tuesday 8th September 10.30am - Media Team Meeting, 4th Floor Cafe, Whitechapel Idea Store
Wednesday 9th September - Next Steps Meeting
Saturday 12th September - Rally (possible fundraising jumble sale and fete)
What you can do to help
1. Picket lines all day
Visit picket lines from August the 27th
Poplar E14 0AF
Arbour Square E1 0PT
Bethnal GreenE2 6AB
2. Take a collection at work:
Strike fund: c/o Keith Priddle UCU THC Treasurer
Tower Hamlets College, Arbour Square Site, E1 0PT.
Sort code 089299
Account number 65252262
3. Send urgent messages of support to:
Richard McEwan (Branch Sec) 07532364638 firstname.lastname@example.org
Alison Lord (Branch Chair) 07805819605 email@example.com
John Budis (Branch Sec) 07967893664 firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Write to the Principal Michael.email@example.com
5. Attending one of the events above.
7. For uptodate info, video and photos join the Facebook group: ‘Tower Hamlets - Stop the Cuts!’
8. Write to your MP: www.theyworkforyou.com
9. Demand Jobs and Educations for All. Join UCU sponsored lobby of the Labour party conference September 27th in Brighton.