Teaching staff at Tower Hamlets College have gone on all-out indefinite strike against 13 compulsory redundancies in the English as a Second Language Department.
This will also mean the cutting of the number of places on ESOL courses from 3,000 to 2,000. Tower Hamlets has got one of the highest proportions of speakers of other langauges in its school system in the country.
Nearly 100 people attended a public meeting on Thursday evening to hear speakers including local Respect councillor Dulal Uddin, Pul McGarr, a teacher at St Paul’s Way School and Neil Williams, a local fire fighter.
Attack on education
Since the removal of further education colleges from local authority control and their “incorporation” they have turned into ever more ruthless businesses. Colleges have cut staff and courses and forced down wages continuosly.
On the other hand at this time of year the amount they spend on advertisng and selling themselves, in the media, on buses, on hoardings, is unbelievable.
Every business has boom and bust. And this artificially created “business” is now apparently experiencing an equallly artifically created “bust” at the hands of the governemnt. It seems there is “over production” in education. The number of students needs to be cut.
All out action
Tower Hamlets College staff have done something that few others have done, go on all out strike to stop the attack. Not only that, they have walked out during the start of year registration. Stop entrollment and hit management where it hurts. The registration of the “customers”.
The other thing that they have done is go on indefinite strike. Strikes in recent years have been reduced to tokenistic displays. Union bureauctats call people out for a day, just to prove they still can. Then they get down to the real business of compromise. Compromise which is usually in large part sell out.
They can get away with this because at no point have members been mobilised. Union structures that have withered over the years are little built by such passive strikes. Workers are told just not to come into work.
An indefinite striek is different. It means striking for victory, a real way to stop and roll back the attack. not just to count a slightly less bad deal. Victory is not assured,but to do nothing nowadays is to be defeated. Management shows no mercy.
An indefinite strike involves people: pickets have to be organised, leaflets produced, other groups of workers met, money collected.
Workers organise themselves rather than someone from nion HQ telling everyone what to do (ususaly “go home and do nothing”). It also brings them into contact with other workers and the community. Workers come to find out who they can rely on: other workers.
This strike is an inportant strike. Mangement is facing up for a showdown as they and all other managements in the public services prepare for much bigger cuts after the election.
It is a strike that can show the way for others to win and not only turn back the bosses attack at Tower Hamlets college, but maybe show the way to rebuild workers organisation.
The dispute seems set ot run. Unison staff are now also set to ballot to join the action.
The lecturers union, the UCU is calling a day of action on Tueday in solidarity.
A demonstration will be held on a Saturday in the borough in the next few weeks.
We will bring you news of these events as it comes in.