The cost of an ongoing strike at Lambeth College over new contracts for staff is nearing the £200,000-mark for the cash-strapped University and College Union, while learners brace themselves for a possible fifth week of disruption.

Teachers and lecturers on the picket line have been getting £50 a-day from the UCU, which has said up to 180 workers were on the strike called over new contracts containing longer working hours and offering less annual leave.

It comes just over a year after the UCU’s own honorary treasurer, Alan Carr, called for £2m of annual savings to be made by April next year.

And the UCU has already tried to raise more money to pay protestors with fund-raising during a “national day of action” on Wednesday (June 25).

Meanwhile a YouTube video has emerged (pictured above) in which protesting staff performed music hall song The Lambeth Walk — which they called “The Lambeth Walk(OUT!)” — in front of the college while learners and non-striking colleagues were inside working.

A UCU spokesperson said picket lines were “almost always enjoyable, good humoured places to be with members finding a variety of ways to get their message across,” but declined to comment on the effect the strike, which started on June 3, was having on union finances.

However, he added: “Like most unions, the UCU pays strike pay during strategically important or prolonged disputes. That is one of the many benefits of being a union member.”

The new contracts at the centre of the row offer 50 days a year annual leave — 10 days less than that given to existing staff.

However, Lambeth principal Mark Silverman has said the terms of the contract, introduced from April 1, were “in line with sector norms”.

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

And he told staff on Tuesday (June 24) that he was willing to enter into talks having emailed the UCU “firm proposals for discussion” the previous day.

Mr Silverman said his proposals included an offer to discuss the “implementation and management of the new contract,” including the proposed changes to sick pay and holiday entitlements.

He said he would also look at providing assurances to existing staff that they would not be affected by the new contract.

The UCU said, two days after Mr Silverman’s message to staff, that it had been consulting members and was therefore ready to negotiate.

The UCU spokesperson said: “We have been trying to resolve this dispute for months. It was a welcome first step, however late, to receive the proposals.

“During the week we have consulted with our members and have now responded. If the principal is prepared to seriously consider UCU’s response we can begin negotiations immediately.”

Meanwhile, the UCU was on Friday (June 27) due to consider an Association of Colleges pay offer said to be the biggest it had received in five years. It included removing the lowest current pay grade.

Pay for staff on the lowest remaining grade would also increase by 2 per cent to £7.65-an-hour, with all other grades rising by 1 per cent.

(Pictured above: A still from a YouTube video of Lambeth College staff singing and dancing while picketing outside work.)



Draw the line

It was great to hear the UCU and Lambeth College principal Mark Silverman were set to follow the advice of learners who told FE Week they wanted those responsible to sit down and thrash things out.

But it took far too long to get that little progress.

This is a strike that has been costly to all parties involved.

Financially, reputationally and worst of all for the learners. It is just not right that they were without their lecturer for nearly a month.

In the coming years college bosses are going to be faced with some very tough decisions in the face of cuts.

And while it’s hard to imagine any principal relishing the thought of reviewing staff contracts, the wage bill and employment terms are always going to be bones of contention.

While further industrial action might therefore seem inevitable, both parties need to draw a line under this particular dispute.

Chris Henwood

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  1. Chrissie

    Wasteful and shameful. Oh and thanks so very much for diluting the power of striking as a way for real issues to be resolved. Get back to work, you have been offered a way back I strongly suggest that you grab it

  2. Voice of reason

    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.

    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. All their updates refer to ‘our strike’, our college?

    I thought the strike was over a contract for new staff by UCU why is the socialist worker even there?

    I wonder if these striking teachers knew that their union is affiliated with The Socialist Worker? is it in their literature when you join.?

    The genie is out of the bottle and I fear for these naive and sometimes ignorant 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 their 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 part of as professionals.

    There are many inappropriate clips in the public domain. Just look at u tube.

    A very worrying clip by Sally Hunt 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? Hold your head in shame. I bet that will be gone from Facebook by today. Not your finest moment

    I highly recommend that all of these strikers and UCU head office with children / grandchildren / nephews nieces taking vital exams and getting ready for college and university stand by their convictions and remove them from their education as of today. Of course they should have done it 4 weeks ago if they had true principles. But they don’t they?

  3. Voice of reason

    I have looked at Lambeth college website. Not that I am a cynic (over these highly trained ethical teachers ) but their 5 week holiday break starts in less than 2 weeks.

    They will be back