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Forget ‘education, education, education’. Cuts to Further Education colleges are industrial and social sabotage?

Issue date


Sham

Members of the University and College Union (UCU), at seven London Further Education colleges are on strike today, Tuesday 23 June, opposing job losses and service cuts. Union members are on strike at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London, South Thames College (Wandsworth site), College of North West London, Croydon College, Greenwich Community College, Hackney Community College and Lewisham Southwark College.

SERTUC visited the picket line at the Waterloo campus of Lewisham Southwark College this morning to express the Regional Council’s solidarity with the UCU members’ brave and principled strike action.

With the economy bumping along the bottom, and 6 years of growth lost, it is time to invest to succeed, not the time to blindly cut adult education again. Further Education supports equal opportunities, lifelong learning, career development and successful businesses. Rather than being a burden on the taxpayer, Further Education is an investment that leads to improved skills, greater productivity, better jobs, more successful businesses and increased tax revenue for the state.

The Association of Colleges has predicted that 190,000 adult education places will be lost 2015-2016 as funding is cut by 24 per cent. Since 2010, the adult skills budget, which funds education and training for those 19 or over, (excluding universities), has been cut by 40 per cent. After the government’s budget plans are announced 8 July, that dire scenario could worsen.

The UCU has said that although a number of colleges in London have agreed to rule out compulsory redundancies, staff at the remaining seven colleges would continue to fight job cuts. UCU members were balloted for industrial action earlier this month and there was strong support for strike action at each college.

In the ballot at Lewisham Southwark College UCU members overwhelmingly backed strike action with 85 per cent of those polled voting in favour of walking out. This is the second day of strike action that union members at Lewisham Southwark have taken in this dispute.

Management at the college has blamed government cuts for its plans to axe 112 full-time equivalent posts, (approximately 200 staff), but UCU says the college has failed to fully explore alternative financial strategies and has created unnecessary delays in agreeing voluntary redundancy packages for staff.

UCU regional official, Una O’Brien, said: “Strike action is a last resort for staff at Lewisham Southwark College, but we are increasingly frustrated with the college's slash and burn approach to its difficulties. The college should sit down with us and discuss all the options available.”

SERTUC urges trade unionists living or working in the areas surrounding Further Education Colleges, and Trades Councils, to support UCU members in their struggle to defend jobs and services. SERTUC urges TUC affiliates to send messages of support to the UCU.

For updates please keep checking the UCU website

Messages of support can be sent to Una O’Brien, Regional Official, UCU, FE London: uobrien@ucu.org.uk

Laurie Heselden

@TUCLaurieHeseld

Megan Dobney

@mdobney