Lambeth College & Hackney College Strikes are struggles about Race, Migration & Class

Lambeth College UCU are on an indefinite strike over the management trying to impose new contracts which would drastically increase working hours and duties, cut holiday and sick pay, and worsen other working
conditions. Hackney Community College are balloting for strike over yet
another round of redundancies. Several other further education colleges
in London are preparing for industrial disputes.

Cuts to funding for those colleges are seriously affecting their ability to serve communities in which they are based. Especially in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision one can see who is the most affected by those changes. The recipients of basic English classes are mostly migrants, often refuges from countries ravaged by war or poverty; Eritrea, Congo, Somalia or Kosovo to name a few. Those classes are increasingly replaced with short courses which students are forced by Job Centre Plus (JCP) to attend. Their benefits can be cut if they turn up late even once.

Opposition to those changes has been strong from the beginning; from the teachers through the Action for ESOL campaign and from the campaigners against cuts to welfare. The attack on working conditions of teachers and the imposition of benefit sanctions through JCP courses are strongly connected.

On one hand, teachers refuse to participate in the sanctions regime both collectively and individually. On the other hand, this refusal can be detrimental to their ability to take action; striking workers are allowing and not trying to stop JCP classes from continuing to take place in Lambeth College, as they understand the severe consequences they would face. The attack on working conditions is as much about the cuts as it is about disciplining the workforce, creating conditions where they can’t refuse to teach courses they morally object to.

The most dangerous form of racism is the structural racism of the state.
It takes many forms: growth the detention regime, increase of racial
harassment from the border agency and the police but also attack on the living conditions of multi-ethnic working class communities. Cuts to
further education and especially ESOL teaching are a part of that. The
struggle of workers in those colleges should be actively supported by
anti-fascists. Hackney College teachers are holding a demo against cuts
this Saturday 7th June at 12PM. Lambeth College are on strike every
weekday and need support on pickets on all their sites in Brixton,
Clapham and Vauxhall.

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