UNISON @ LAMBETH COLLEGE: A STATEMENT – 1st June 2014
Lambeth College UNISON fully supports the courageous decision of Lambeth UCU to take indefinite strike action to defend terms and conditions for new staff at the College. Lambeth UCU; your fight is our fight! We fight to defend education and working conditions at the College by preventing management’s cynical plan to divide and rule. Unity is strength. It is the best defence we have against the potential imposition of these horrendous new contracts on all staff.
The terms and conditions of contracts of all workers at the college have been won and defended over the years by union members prepared to spend time negotiating and to sacrifice pay during strikes to win fair terms for all.
We note the Principal’s letter of 29th May in which he vainly attempted to divide union from union, new staff from established staff and union member from non-union member. We reject his implication that UCU are unwilling to find a resolution to this dispute. It is he who is blocking resolution by his inflexible refusal to negotiate. He tells us the new contracts are ‘absolutely non-negotiable’ and he ‘will not back down on this point’.
UNISON is in complete agreement with UCU that we expect an invitation to ACAS to result in negotiations. If there is to be no negotiation on these contracts, what is this ‘way forward’ that the Principal has such hopes for? We hope and believe that any employer who invites union reps to ACAS ought to be prepared to negotiate with them there.
UNISON members at Lambeth College have voted repeatedly to take strike action if necessary to cause the withdrawal of the new contracts. We have also voted to reject the divisive offer to “protect” existing members of support staff from transition to a new contract until the end of August 2015 in return for abandoning industrial action. For the avoidance of doubt: WE OPPOSE A TWO-TIER WORKFORCE!
We are disappointed that the Principal, in his letter, attempts to pitch UNISON against UCU. UNISON reps have made themselves available for meetings at ACAS for the last 3 weeks. We had hoped finally to achieve this meeting last week (even though many of us were on leave). We were informed that the Principal was unable to attend ACAS last week as he was on leave. The earliest date he could offer was Thursday 5th June, which just happened to be during the first week of UCU’s strike. We are at a loss to understand why our meeting at ACAS was put back in this manner. We are dismayed that the Principal has capitalised on this delay in a cynical attempt to intimidate staff and divide the unions.
The increasingly hysterical personal attacks on the commitment and professionalism of various members of staff who strongly oppose the introduction of the punitive new contracts are unfortunate. During the disastrous OFSTED inspection of February 2012, which set in motion the chain of events we now experience, the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Independent Living and Leisure Skills departments (which clearly include many of the targets of these insults) were graded “2”, or “good” for overall effectiveness of provision. A grade to which the current management now aspires…
A member of support staff with five years service who earns £28,000 a year and who is moved onto the new contract, will lose £10,000 in sick pay compared with the “old” contract over a year if unlucky enough to get cancer, for instance. And people sometimes do. So individuals stand to lose a significant amount, while the actual cost to the college was always minimal because so few people were ever involved.
ATTACKING THE RIGHTS OF PEOPLE WHEN THEY ARE MOST VULNERABLE IS NOT “MODERNISING” OR BECOMING “MORE FIT FOR PURPOSE”. IT IS A RETURN TO VICTORIAN VALUES.
It is notable that two of the curriculum areas involved in the proposed new round of redundancies are precisely those (ESOL and LLDD) which are successful, in demand and the strongest defenders of workers’ rights within the college.
SO THE “JOURNEY TO BECOMING OUTSTANDING” MUST INVOLVE GETTING RID OF SOME OF OUR BEST TEACHERS?
Stand up for what is right: support the UCU and our hard-working, professional, teaching staff, many of whom have dedicated many years of their careers to educating and supporting the local community.
We are committed to maintaining and improving the working conditions of our members and of all staff, established or new, UNISON or UCU, union member or non-union member. Our fight is your fight! Join us; together we shall win.
SAY NO TO THE NEW CONTRACTS:
OUR COLLEGE, OUR COMMUNITY!