Lambeth College staff vote to walk out indefinitely

Staff at Lambeth College have voted to go on indefinite strike in a row over proposed changes to terms and conditions.

A ballot among University and College Union (UCU) members was supported by 89 per cent of voters —with turnout of 72 per cent.

The proposed strike plans mean that once the strike started, it could continue until the matter was resolved, and a statement from the UCU said the union had authorised £50 per day in strike pay for the duration of the strike.

The date of the start of the strike is expected to be announced on Tuesday.

UCU regional official Una O’Brien said: “The overwhelming mandate from UCU members at Lambeth, despite pressure from the college and the knowledge that this could be a long and bitter dispute, is quite remarkable.

“We hope that the college will now move away from confrontation and sit down with us to resolve this mess.”

The dispute was sparked last month when the college introduced new contracts for staff joining after April 1, which a UCU statement said would “leave them with bigger workloads, but less sick pay and fewer holidays”.

Lambeth College had previously taken out a court injunction preventing the one-day strike on May 1 from continuing indefinitely, on the grounds that the ballot paper did not make clear that the changed contracts would apply to new staff only.

Ms O’Brien said: “The college was wrong to resort to anti-union legislation in an effort to halt staff from taking legitimate strike action.

“Delaying the strike thanks to a technicality has done nothing to improve relations with staff and only hardens our members’ resolve in this fight to defend working conditions.”

The injunction meant the UCU was prevented from taking further strike action without re-balloting its members and the initial ballot, which was supported by 95 per cent of a 70 per cent turnout.

Mark Silverman, principal of Lambeth College, said: “We were pleased that the court intervened and ordered that indefinite industrial action could not commence on May 1.

“To have allowed it to have gone ahead would have been deeply damaging to the students, who are preparing for year end tests and the community that the college serves.

“UCU intended to inflict the maximum damage on the college and its students, and I am pleased that we were able to avoid that.

“I am only sorry that the Union would not accept the weight of our arguments, and forced us to take this step, spending hard pressed college funds on this legal dispute – although UCU was ordered to pay our costs.

“We wish UCU could see that the steps we are taking are in the interests of our students, and the long term interests of staff, and reflect our determination to transform the College into an outstanding educational organisation delivering, day in day out, excellent opportunities to our students.

“This is a critical time for learners, who are taking examinations, seeing final tutor support for successful completion of their courses.

“The right thing for learners right now would be for UCU to recommend that their teachers put the learners first and suspend strike action.”