Community Education Lewisham has been the target of annual cuts under a restructure which has been affecting learners and staff for at least five or six years. Now there has been an announcement of cuts to the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) courses of around 30% for the 2010/11 academic year.
CEL have recently announced a “proposal” to close all crèches run by CEL and set their own limit on the “consultation” period of three weeks. But it is obvious that management have long had this plan in the pipeline and are now repeating the mantra of enforced cuts due to forces outside their control, i.e., the Skills Council. The proposal will lead to the loss of 26 creche workers’ jobs, and will seriously compromise CEL’s claim to call itself a community service.
What is more, the plans lack clarity and vision. They have not included any details of alternatives that may have been considered. There is absolutely no mention made of the impact on equal opportunities — most of our crèche users are ESOL learners with language and social needs. The only offer of help is childcare specialists who will help learners find alternative childcare. The longer term impact is also likely to be further cuts in ESOL provision due to falling numbers of students.
Management are picking off the most vulnerable and weakest members of the community first. It’ll be us next. We need to remind CEL that they are there to serve the community and that Unison and UCU will fight these proposals with all the strength we can muster.