tower hamlets college: the struggle continues!

9 09 2009

Rally this Saturday: 2pm – 4pm Altab Ali Park, near Aldgate East Station, just south of Brick Lane.

Teachers at Tower Hamlets college are now in their third week of indefinite strike action against cuts to jobs and courses.  Indefinite strike action (rare in the UK), the level of commitment and creativity shown by the strikers, and the wider social objectives of the struggle make it a crucial battle for us to support.

tower_hamlets_270809

Visitors are welcome at picket lines outside the college’s three sites, from 7.30am each morning (though showing up at any time will be appreciated, and a list of other ways to help appears at the bottom):

The proposed cuts involve:

  • 13 compulsory redundancies, and the loss of a further 40 staff (part timers, equivalent to 20 full time jobs) through voluntary redundanies, despite the employment of 15 new middle managers.  (A govenor of the college earns £500,000 a year as Chairman of the Prudential.)
  • The loss of around 1,000 places for ESOL – English as a second or other language – courses.  These cuts will hit working class, migrant women hardest.   Tower Hamlets is a centre of Bangladeshi migration due to the presence of a large existing community.  Most migrants are women, who have come to live with husbands in Britain.  English is a vital condition for new residents from overseas to assert their rights, gain some measure of independence and interact with other Tower Hamlets residents who don’t speak their first language (not only people born in Britain, but migrants from other countries).  The cuts are therefore a direct attack on the rights of migrants, particularly Asian women, and an attack on the prospects for local working-class community cohesion.
  • Many other courses are ‘access’ courses; primarily used by local working class people of every background to gain entry to further or higher education.

The community has rallied behind the strikers, and while students are no longer being asked not to cross picket lines, when they were, many stood with strikers.  The strike is causing significant disruption to the college.  Enrollment does not appear to have been completed on time, and most classes are currently not happening.  The next vital step in the campaign is that admin staff, some of whom are organised by UNISON, are set to strike on Monday 14th September – an especially good morning to be on a picket line.  However, this looks as though it will be a long dispute, so donations to the strike fund and other forms of solidarity are vital: let’s draw a line in the sand!

Further updates to follow.  For up to date info, video and photos join the Facebook group: ‘Tower Hamlets – Stop the Cuts!

Other ways to help

1. Organise a meeting at your place of work and invite a striker to come and speak.

2. Take a collection at work:
Strike fund: c/o Keith Priddle UCU THC Treasurer
Tower Hamlets College, Arbour Square Site, E1 0PT.
Sort code 089299
Account number 65252262

3. Send urgent messages of support to:
Richard McEwan (Branch Sec) 07532364638 richmcewan@hotmail.com
Alison Lord (Branch Chair) 07805819605 lallylord@hotmail.com
John Budis (Branch Sec) 07967893664 johnbudis@gmail.com

4. Write to the Principal Michael.farley@tower.ac.uk

5. Come to the rally on Saturday 12th September, from 2pm to 4pm. It will be held at Altab Ali Park, near Aldgate East Station, just south of Brick Lane.

6. Sign: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/THCollegefunding

7. For up to date info, video and photos join the Facebook group: ‘Tower Hamlets – Stop the Cuts!

8. Write to your MP: www.theyworkforyou.com

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4 responses

18 09 2009
Tony Parsons

Just to clairfy some points

Please list the new 15 middle managers, 15 middle management posts have not been created, please stick to the facts.

The Governor of the college works for the college on a voluntary basis.

The cuts are government cuts and not college management cuts.

18 09 2009
c0mmunard

Tony, you haven’t clarified anything. I can’t list the 15 middle managers, but I don’t work at the college. This information has been provided by the strikers, if you have an issue with it, take it up with them.

The Governors may be voluntary, but the discrepancy between the income (and interests) of the people making the decisions and the people suffering from the cuts is revealing and sgnificant.

The college management has chosen to make cuts in the way it has: other options would have been a reduction in salaries for the Senior Management Team. If Farley accepts the government cuts, he needs to take responsibility for implementing them. If he doesn’t, he needs to say so: and refuse to implement them and resign.

But, yes, on that last point, you’re right: the cuts do come for the government. All public sector cuts come from the government, and all public sector cuts have to be fought by the people facing them, against the particular institutions by which they are employed. In no way does this invalidate the position of the strikers.

18 09 2009
Tony Parsons

Neither can the strikers provide the list of 15 new managers (or even the 15 new managerial posts) because there aren’t any, all I want is for people to use facts.

It takes strong leadership to take these tough decisions which will ensure the future of the college.

The college management chose compulsory redundancies as the very last option, one of the proposals put to the union was for a freeze this year on pay increases, they refused!? The college can’t pay staff for courses it’s not being funded for.

The principal has to accept the government cuts (as many other people do) as the principal is paid by the government. resigning would just open the door for someone else to make the cuts?
I’m by no means trying justify the government cuts, but the college for it’s survival has to work on the money it receives.

Why isn’t there a national strike by FE staff in support of this strike then? Every other FE college has to make cuts, further education is unfortunately not compulsory education, therefore the funding levels will always fluctuate

18 09 2009
c0mmunard

… the list of 15 new managers (or even the 15 new managerial posts) because there aren’t any …

So you say, but frankly, I’m not convinced. In every dispute I’ve seen, there’s always a management spin… I’m not about believe a random assertion off a comment on a website.

The college management chose compulsory redundancies as the very last option, one of the proposals put to the union was for a freeze this year on pay increases, they refused!?

Quite right. The recession isn’t workers’ fault, the cuts are not defensible: we shouldn’t, to coin a phrase, have to pay for their crisis.

The college can’t pay staff for courses it’s not being funded for.

You see where this logic goes? Nurses can’t strike anywhere, according to you, because each hospital only has so much money. So does every school, so – acccording to your play book – teachers have no legitimate demands to strike with. In fact, firms, also, only have so much money and so many customers willing to pay so much, so no point striking in the private sector either! According to you, I imagine, we should all just sit back, accept pay cuts, and watch the city chiefs a couple of mile away continue to rake in the bonuses… you’re peddling nothing but a crude, all purpose, anti-strike, anti-worker ideology.

The principal has to accept the government cuts (as many other people do) as the principal is paid by the government. resigning would just open the door for someone else to make the cuts?

In life, you take responsibility for doing the things you do or don’t do them. It’s called ‘honour’ and ‘personal integrity’. And, frankly, if the Principal resigned over the strike, more money would be found higher up the food chain pretty quickly. Can you imagine the difficulty of trying to recruit someone to fill the post in the middle of the strike?!

(To an extent, you’re right: senior managers and owners are always forced into this sort of thing, because austerity is mandated by the logic – periodic crises and constant cuts – of capitalism. This is why communists generally avoid becoming bosses: we want to fight the system which brings round after round of attack, not manage it, and we see supporting workers’ action as among the best ways to do this.)

I’m by no means trying justify the government cuts, but the college for it’s survival has to work on the money it receives.

Funnily enough, when workers start to strike and win at the bottom of the pyramid, more money is generally found at the top. For one thing, Farley has begun to make a few concessions already, so obviously some more money has been found somewhere. There’s absolutely no way any of those teachers are going back until the 13 jobs have been saved, at a minimum. The rank and file is very strong, and they have £25,000 in strike fund money already. Supporters of the management line had better face up to that fact.

Why isn’t there a national strike by FE staff in support of this strike then?

Sympathy action would be illegal (it would still be a good thing, but undoubtedly more difficult to organise from workers’ point of view). And, unfortuately, not all FE staff are as well organised or confident as the TH lot. And perhaps cuts have been carried out differently in other places: I don’t know about that personally. (I know ESOL teachers in Bristol are considering strike action at the moment…)

I also note that you don’t have a lot to say about the 1,000 (or so) ESOL places that are going and how that will effect the (potential) students.




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