On Friday 1 May, the UCU union at Lewisham and Southwark college will begin the ballot for industrial action to save 110 full-time equivalent jobs.
We are now one of several colleges in London preparing to resist attacks on our jobs and our ability to serve local working class students with what is for many the last chance to escape poverty and the hopelessness of unemployment.
The bulk of the leadership and governance of further education in the UK are socially useless and parasitic on the funding of further education. They do little more than administer the dismantling of educational hope for large sections of the working class.
They are committed to a “Burger King” model of education. They are committed to the privatisation of whatever would be left of further education after this dismantling. We are fighting against this.
That we share this same fight with other colleges in London may be the key to pushing back this assault on further education. Unions fighting alongside other unions, supported by the local community, and colleges fighting side by side — this must be the shape of the battlefield if we are to win.
Of course, managers, and their supporters in boards of governors, local councils and national government understand this. They will try to isolate support staff from teaching staff in the college. They will try to isolate the college unions from the local community. They will try to isolate each college union’s fight by using their anti-union laws.
In the few weeks remaining of the college term, unions need to escalate their actions and to synchronise them.
We need to further educate ourselves in lessons from past struggles in education, both official and un-official actions. We need to educate ourselves in the skills of sit-ins, teach-ins, locking management out of their meetings and the occupation of campuses.
Whatever the tactic, whatever the action. This lesson must be learnt: Striking as protest good; striking to win better.
Teachers to debate academisation head
On Saturday 25 April, around 100 people attended the second demonstration to stop academisation of Prendergast Federation Schools in Lewisham.
The protest, orgainsed by Stop Academies in Lewisham (SAIL), was different in its makeup this time around, with lots more parents and teachers, which is promising for the campaign.
It is far from over!
The rally heard from parents, students, trade unionists and, interestingly, Lewisham and Deptford’s Labour candidate, Vicky Foxcroft, who has given her support against this academy proposal.
Students from the anti-academisation campaign from Sedgehill School also attended to show solidarity and build links.
The next step in this struggle is an open debate on 14 May between the teaching unions and the Executive Headof the Federation, David Sheppard. The fact that Sheppard has agreed to this meeting, under pressure from the campaign, shows that it is working.
There is also news of the Federation being questioned on this move by MPs and the Mayor behind the scenes.
We must keep the campaign going to tip the balance fully in our favour.
The demonstration on Saturday seems to show the campaign is steadily building momentum.
National Gallery strikes
PCS members at the National Gallery struck again on the 20-24 April in their dispute over privatisation of gallery services.
Workers will strike again on Friday 1 May, and rally at 2pm in Trafalgar Square, joining May Day celebrations. Workers will have struck for a total of 22 days in the dispute.
Artist Grayson Perry has supported to the campaign to stop the privatisation and signed an open letter to gallery directors calling for a halt to the tendering process, due to start two days before the general election.
Workers are calling for increased solidarity as management continues refusing to consider other options.
• Donate to the strike fund, organise a solidarity event, pass a motion of solidarity, or sign the petition here
Network Rail ballot
Network Rail workers in the RMT union will ballot for strikes to win a decent pay deal, after a reps’ meeting on 16 April rejected the company’s latest offer.
Network Rail wants staff to accept a four-year pay deal, with a £500 non-consolidated payment in year one, and RPI-linked increases through 2018. The company also wants to revoke a previous promise of no compulsory redundancies in 2016, suggesting that job cuts may well be on the horizon.
A consultative ballot of RMT members over a previous pay offer returned a nine to one majority against the deal. Some RMT activists on Network Rail questioned why the union did not also ballot for strikes at that time, which would have given the option of taking action if no improved offer was forthcoming.
The union is yet to announce a timetable for the strike ballot.