‘Maximum disruption’ criticism of strike picket line planned for enrolment day

Striking union members have been criticised for trying to cause “maximum disruption to the community”, by taking the unusual step of holding their industrial action on a college’s weekend enrolment day.

The University and College Union announced today that strikes will take place at the Willesden and Wembley campuses of the College of North West London, on Wednesday (June 28) and Saturday (July 1), in a row over the sacking of their colleague.

The union openly admitted that the aim of the latter strike will be to “disrupt an enrolment day for students looking to start courses in September” – with potential learners and their parents likely to come into contact with picketing staff.

It provoked a college spokesperson into saying: “It is disappointing that UCU has chosen to target key dates in the college’s calendar for this action, particularly on the Saturday which appears to have been chosen in order to cause maximum disruption to the community.

“We will be doing everything possible to minimise disruption to learners on Wednesday and will proceed as planned with our enrolment day on Saturday.”

FE Week invited the union to respond to this criticism.

Una O’Brien said that while any walk-out is a last resort, “effective strike action is supposed to cause disruption”.

“The college would be best off focussing its efforts on resolving the dispute, rather than sniping about the action union members feel they have been forced into,” she said.

UCU members have already walked out twice in support of mathematics teacher Indro Sen, who the union said was suspended in October 2016 while representing a former colleague at an employment tribunal.

A union spokesperson said:  “The college says that Sen did not have time off to attend the hearing and that representing his co-worker amounted to gross misconduct. UCU feels that the college is using this as an opportunity to sack Mr Sen for his trade union activities.”

The college firmly denied this allegation.

“Mr Sen was not dismissed for representing a colleague at a tribunal, but for gross misconduct following a disciplinary investigation and hearing in line with established procedures, which included an appeal,” the spokesperson added.

“The college rejects any suggestion that Mr Sen’s dismissal was the result of anything other than the disciplinary matter mentioned above.”

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