The principal of Lambeth College has pleaded with University and College Union (UCU) members to step back from “damaging and destructive” strike action after they voted in favour of a second indefinite strike in just eight months.

Mark Silverman also called on government and local politicians to encourage unions to focus their efforts on the negotiating table, rather than go ahead with a series of planned strikes beginning this week.

He said it was “disappointing that UCU aren’t thinking about the learners and the impact it’s going to have on them”.

The UCU unveiled plans on November 26 for a series of escalating one, two and three-day walkouts, culminating in indefinite strike from January 17, in a row over contracts for new staff which the union says would leave teachers with longer working hours and less annual leave and sick pay.

Mr Silverman said: “I would welcome anybody who has any influence with UCU to encourage them step back from something that’s going to be so damaging and destructive, and to understand what that industrial action is going to do to learners and to the college.”

If the strike goes ahead it will be the second time UCU members at the college have taken indefinite action in eight months, following a strike from June that lasted five weeks.

Staff returned days before the summer holidays began and have been involved in talks with the college since September but in a ballot, the results of which were announced last month, 66 UCU members voted to strike, from a turnout of 80 members from a staff of 250.

Una O’Brien, UCU regional official, said: “The situation at Lambeth College is now very clear and the management cannot be in any doubt at how angry staff are about the new contracts.

“We hope that strike action, which will certainly mean major disruption again at Lambeth, won’t be necessary. The college needs to sit down with us to talk through changes to staff contracts and work towards finding a solution staff are happy with.”

The new contracts at the centre of the row were introduced for new staff on April 1 and offer 50 days a year annual leave — 10 days fewer than that given to existing staff.

However, Mr Silverman has said the terms were “in line with sector norms”.

He said they were part of the college’s recovery plan following a grade three Ofsted inspection in March 2013 (up from a grade four in October 2012) and financial deficits of £4.1m in 2012/13 and £3.5m last year.

“We’ve made great progress, we have really increased our success rates, but clearly the damaging action and the end of last year has dented that progress,” said Mr Silverman.

“UCU needs to understand the reality of the challenges we face.”

The first strike is expected to take place on Thursday (December 4) for one day, followed by a two-day strike on December 9 and 10 and a three-day strike is scheduled for December 15, 16 and 17.

Following Christmas, a two-day strike is planned on January 7 and 8, with three days of striking on January 13, 14 and 15 before the indefinite strike is set to begin on January 17.

Main pic: Striking UCU members on the picket line during the five-week strike which began in June


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  1. Voice of reason

    Well done Una OBrein ( regional rep of UCU ) . You must be really proud of yourself claiming that it will certainly mean “major disruption at Lambeth College” . It is noted how you carefully avoid to complete the sentence TO LEARNERS .

    It says it all and shows how out of touch you are. Yet another white middle class comrade working at “grass roots level” . Up the revolution

    • Voice of education

      Sentence to learners? Just come and see “learning environment” in Vauxhall or Brixton (especially buckets of water in corridors). Learners are the last thing the principal cares about, especially that teachers have no books, no stationery and some of the classrooms are dilapidated on the borderline of breaching H&S. Such conditions surely add to learning experience that the learners get.

  2. Voice of education… Are you completely devoid of facts. Is it not true that the college is indeed redeveloping Brixton site and also has put in plans to redevelop Vauxhall forward. Plus the Clapham centre is in its final phase of redevelopment.

    please don’t moan and claim the college do not care. I think it is the strikers all 66 of them that do not care, the other 184 teachers whom i am one of are not risking our learners futures or indeed encouraging them to strike and swell your diminishing numbers along with a greatly diminished argument.

    btw, just go to the college website all news regarding the centres redevelopment us there clear as day.

    so you go ahead and strike and then conveniently as always come back in time for holiday pay.

    • I guess we can agree in one point: “Is it not true that the college is indeed redeveloping Brixton site”. It’s not. I will not go into details, but many learners in Brixton are complaining (and actually going on strike next Thursday), so it says it all about that ‘development’.
      Risking our learners’ futures is teaching them in conditions that are unsafe and by staff that is overworked (especially those working on some bogus contracts and teaching 35h per week).
      PS. Looking at your punctuation I highly doubt you’re one of the teachers.

  3. Voice of reason

    Voice of education also omits the word ‘ learners’.

    Apparently ‘the teachers ‘don’t have books and stationary. Do they EVER think about the learners in this or just themselves. My child borrows books from the library

    I sense an ongoing theme here from these selfish overpaid ( and too many days off at 54 per year ) revolutionary comrade teachers.

    Maybe they should ask their general secretary Sally Hunt to give them a sub to buy them a pen Her salary is the same as a principal in a large college at 150k with benefits