Union calls national ‘day of action’ in support of staff on indefinite strike at Lambeth College



The University and College Union (UCU) has called a national “day of action” tomorrow in support of staff in their fourth week of a strike at Lambeth College.

The UCU has asked members working at colleges and universities across the country to help increase awareness of the indefinite industrial action launched on June 3.

They will be invited to upload supportive photos and messages to a digital Wall of Support on the UCU website and tweet using the hashtag #IsupportLambethUCU.

A UCU spokesperson said Wednesday’s activities would also include lunchtime protests, cash collections for those on strike, collecting signatures for a petition backing the action and emailing Lambeth principal Mark Silverman.

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “No educator enjoys taking strike action and indefinite action is a rare occurrence indeed.

“This day of action is an important opportunity for our members around the country to show they support their colleagues at Lambeth and I have no doubt our members will respond magnificently.”

The strike was called over new contracts containing longer working hours and offering less annual leave. The new contracts offer 50 days a year annual leave — 10 days less than that given to existing staff.

However, Mr Silverman, who declined to comment on the UCU’s “day of action,” has said the terms of the new contract, which was introduced from April 1, were “in line with sector norms”.

He said the contract change was part of the college’s recovery plan following financial deficits of £4.1m in 2012/13 and £3.5m this year.

He added: “It is a shame that UCU are not more eager to prevent further damage to learners, their members and the college.

“I would, however, like to thank the vast majority of staff who are not striking for their hard work and continued support, rest assured we will continue in our efforts to resolve the dispute for the good of the learners and our college.”

The Association of Colleges declined to comment on whether members were taking measures to reduce any potential impact of the action. The UCU declined to comment on how many colleges and universities would be involved.

See Ms Hunt and Mr Silverman outline their views on the Lambeth College strike more fully here.



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3 Comments

  1. non striking staff member

    As a non-striking member of staff, I am fed up of the way on which the union continue to paint this ‘dismal’ picture. Also, would Sally Hunt please respond to the fact that she clearly states she has asked officials “to once again contact the college to offer unconditional talks” and that it “is through genuine negotiation that this dispute will be solved”

    How does this stack up with the fact that all staff received an email from the Principal on Tuesday 24 June stating:

    “Last week we were in dialogue with UCU to try and find a way to get their members, who were still on strike, back to work. Whilst we have continued to make clear that the new contract for new staff will not be withdrawn, we are willing to look at some areas regarding the implementation and operation of the new contract for new staff and have also reconfirmed our willingness to discuss protection and assurances for existing staff.

    As a result, yesterday we sent some firm proposals for discussion to end the dispute to UCU. However, despite their publicly stated stance that the want to talk, they have informed us that they are unable to find time until the end of this week, in order to even consider the proposals to end this dispute. It is a shame that UCU are not more eager to prevent further damage to learners, their members and the College.”

    Will the General Secretary of UCU please kindly advise me and my countless non striking colleagues staff – who are I the majority – how your statements on FE Week balance with the fact that your ‘officials’ are actually unwilling to sit down and talk. I note that they are not too busy to stop filming themselves doing ‘the Lambeth walk’.

    I also note that UCU is spending money on adverts stating that the college refuses to negotiate. That is clearly not the case, will UCU retract this statement in light of the above or are we playing the oh so lovely game of semantics?

    I apologise for the rant, however, I am a long-standing member of staff at Lambeth and I wholeheartedly disagree with the disinformation and the way in which a lovely college with amazing staff and students is being rubbished. UCU on the ground are not willing in any way to end the dispute, regardless of UCU central encouraging it.

    It ultimately begs the question, who is that need to get their house in order?

  2. David kaandi

    I cannot believe the dispute is still going on. I think it us appalling, if true, that the strikers are stalling or not actually wanting to talk with the College.

    absolutely unacceptable and clearly a black mark on their ’cause’

    what is even more disturbing, again, if true, is the union using advertising and disinformation as a means of propagating an inaccurate message.

    i would like to see if the general secretary will respond.

  3. Voice of reason

    How strange at Lambeth college to see middle class professional teachers earning 40k ( before their employer has added their pension contributions probably, so they cost much more) and (with 11 weeks annual leave ) proudly announcing the college is in disruption and LLDD , science and ESOL departments are without teachers . You can bet they will refute this salary and their status of being middle class. Revolution is only for the low paid working class and they aspire to be accepted at “grass roots level” and not been seen as part of the establishment
    ( commonly known as the chattering classes)

    They seem excited about vulnerable learners with Autism, Down’s syndrome and many other needs who are having their much needed usual daily routines disrupted. Their parents and carers must out of their minds with worry if they work or need support.

    Students getting ready for exams and have their work marked in the next two weeks must be anxious and worried for their future ( especially those who need grades for HE) whilst these middle class professionals proudly stand and ask them for support by not attending their lessons and exams.

    The strikers speak of being upset at disrupting learners’ education. A very worrying clip by Sally Huntb from UCU tells strikers about organising events during the College day for students. Very chillingly she describes these events as giving them a ‘political education’ as usually they just get exam practice and assignment writing. Did I really hear that? This is a weak attempt to lure learners away from attending College to aim their claim that’ ” the college is empty “. They continue to give conflicting messages as to their distress of withholding support to learners via ongoing u tube clips of them dancing and having BBQs :for learners parents and working colleagues to see.

    No doubt they attempt to convince themselves that they are teachers with a strong commitment to learners and the community and they are doing this for them. All very selfless . I bet they all claim they are really all secretly supporting learners despite not being paid. I can only guess this aids their sleeping each night.

    I considered am I being a bit harsh on the integrity of these professionals and their actions in relation to their gripe about contracts for new staff. Then I watch many gimmicky U tube clips open for the world to see on their solidarity Facebook page.

    In one clip I was mesmerised by a teacher prancing around on the roadside of Brixton, (like a puppet on a string) with a sign saying ” beep” to passing traffic whilst her colleague filmed it and whispered helpfully ” you need a bigger sign”. This is 80k worth of minds coming together.

    I don’t think it occurred to them for one minute that buses and white vans beeped to get her to prance around – like the childhood toy where you press the base and the donkeys legs collapse and it dances. As a child you did not press it because you felt any sympathy for or agreed with the donkey. It was just funny to watch the reaction of your action.

    In another U tube clip called ‘The Lambeth Walk (Out)’ 12 striking teachers stand outside Lambeth College Signage singing and dancing “Doing the Lambeth Walk” whilst an elderly gentleman attempts to rap ( that grass roots link with the community again). Not that these people stereotype but all know everyone relates to rapping in SE London

    “ Lambeth you never see
    The skies aint blue
    The grass ain’t green
    It hasn’t got that Mayfair Touch
    But that doesn’t matter much”

    Lambeth College is in SW4 Clapham Common South Side . Click on Wikipedia and you will get the following information:

    1. Clapham Common is an 89 hectares triangular area of grassland. (That’s a lot of green)

    2. Clapham contains three ponds, two of which are historical features, and a more modern paddling pool known as Cock Pond. (That’s a lot of blue)

    3. The common is surrounded by many fine houses, built from the 1790s onwards, which became fashionable dwellings for wealthy business people (that’s a lot of Mayfair Touch)

    You can’t buy a one bedroom flat in Clapham for less than 500k and houses are no less than a few million) . All this: within 200 yards of the college.

    On passing the picket this week my friend tells me he made a brief polite comment that ” it might rain later” and one teacher said ” that’s okay I live just over there” .

    As a true working class person I own up to loathing those who can afford to have such principles and pretend to understand my life experiences. Do they not understand that I would sell my soul for my child to have the opportunity to go to university: (a chance never afforded to me but probably afforded to their children) and now being denied to others.

    In another U tube clip the staff sit in a line and stand up one by one with a piece of paper saying ” I work at Lambeth college” after apparently a comment that not all those on the picket line were teachers from the college. They look smug at their clever response to this allegation.

    The union proudly shows the BBC footage on their Facebook page of around 10 teachers doing the hokey cokey as they cling together kicking their legs out and chanting ” I’d rather be a picket than a scab” whilst smiling and giggling. All these things available for learners to watch on the WWW whilst dishonestly declaring it is in the learners interests they are striking . This strike is about their personal interests make mo mistake.

    I have calculated that as salaries are on average 40k per year per teacher : every 10 teachers in a Hokey Cokey chain is costing the tax payer around £400k. As UCU have indicated they have over 100 teachers on strike I will leave those of you better educated than me to do the maths.

    These immature ongoing U Tube footages’ don’t help support an adult debate or gain the sympathy of many who don’t benefit from extensive holidays , a good final pension and a sickness policy that pays them for all sick days.

    Would the union like to see the governors singing to Amy Winehouse ” shall we stop the new contracts, we say NO NO NO” . Of course not: it is silly and the union would quite rightly ensure it went to the a National press to highlight the trivialisation of what is a serious issue to be resolved. So why are they doing it to learners?

    Many learners that attend Lambeth College are often from deprived areas in South East London. Their own parents may have low skilled but essential jobs. I bet many get up at 4am in the morning to come and clean offices and homes for professionals (maybe even these teachers offices or homes) . I am very sure they earn probably less than 12k per year and will be lucky if they get 20 days annual leave ( including bank holidays) . Sick pay will be statutory sick pay ( so receive no money for being sick the first few days)

    Yet these learners are being asked to understand the awful plight of teachers (who are not yet employed). They are being asked to sign a petition on their way in and out of college. Of course learners will sign: they believe it is asking for the strike to stop. They are being asked by the very people they thought they could trust to get them an education. These signatures can’t be used as evidence that learners support the action. It is well documented that abused and deprived children will still support the abuser out of loyalty and fear. It does not mean they want it to continue.

    Many adult learners fund their course by doing part time evening, night time and weekend work in places like factories, cleaning jobs and retail. THATS A 7 DAY WEEK JOB just to be educated and try to get a good career – like the teachers. I can almost guarantee you never hear a moan from them

    YES YES we have heard how hard you teachers work: marking every evening and all through your holidays and you don’t really get the 11 week break because all you do is mark and plan for next year.

    As the union appear keen to constantly disclose information facts and figures, maybe they would like to disclose the overall sickness record of UCU teachers in the college. I bet it is above the national average and thus the fear that they will only get 4 months full pay instead of 6 months.

    YES YES we know teaching is more stressful than anyone else’s job.

    There are concerns that newly employed teachers on the new contract (as of April) will impact on childcare costs. Well either they won’t take a job if they can’t fit it in around their childcare ( just like the rest of society) or they could just stop any random person in the street and ask them how they cope without 9 weeks off a year and bank holidays. Believe me we do.

    I am not convinced about the integrity of this strike. Use any search engine and type in the strike and you get articles by The Socialist Worker, The Morning Star , Open Democracy , revolutionary socialist party, Workers liberty Association, The Marxist student: to name just a few.

    This strike is an anti-establishment strike to which Lambeth College is just an innocent vessel for them. Right contract change but wrong political time with indications from the government that education will need to modernise.

    Taped down the street like an avenue of trees Socialist Worker placards scream at you “Gove Out” ” education not profit” ” save our college” as socialist workers try to hand out a newspaper, a daily update on the strike and a sticker. ( I was not aware that the socialist worker was a teacher union) All this: despite the fact that Michael Gove does not work at this College. I thought the strike was over a contract for new staff? There are constant calls for a national strike.

    The genie is out of the bottle and I fear for the young impressionable teachers on strike who will not have realised the hidden agenda and may not know how to remove themselves from it and return to work facing their colleagues and learners that they have let down.

    Their ‘masters of revolution ‘ are indeed persuasive and the UCU reps are self gratifying themselves to be “at grass roots level understanding a community in Brixton” despite being predominantly white middle class UCU reps ( yes let’s briefly mention the elephant in the room ) They seem to believe they can topple the establishment that they are very much part of.

    I can now see another well planned U tube clip with UCU reps standing up and saying “I’m not middle class . I am not part of establishment. I am not white, I live in Peckham or Brixton” ( it will be vital at this point to show the exception to the rule)

    An ill worked out plan to fail students and then the college will get a bad OFSTED inspection. Then the Principal will maybe get the boot ( hey look you win a GREAT VICTORY) You WON : no pay for a month was worth it…………

    Meanwhile all the teachers, the technicians, the classroom assistants , the librarians, the cleaners, the window cleaners etc – the many local people employed in the college- can all join the queue of the unemployed because the college will close.

    A hollow victory for what? A contract that does not affect existing staff but the socialist workers can use their sacrifice as a great case study.

    I see (on their Facebook page ) the strikers called for a National strike on 25th June in support of Lambeth staff and one college have replied they will be eating their lunch whilst thinking of them. There are a few clues in their answer.

    And just as (in 2 years time) these teachers won’t recall the names learners they let down and could pass them in the street : their union won’t remember the names of the staff that gave up their salary for a substantive time and the impact of that to their families.