Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/391/4437
Defend education in Hackney
MORE THAN 120 people packed into a meeting in Hackney, east London, on 26 April to put their demands to election candidates. What would they do to stop the slaughter of jobs and classes at Hackney Community College (HCC)?
Clare Doyle, Hackney Socialist Party
As explained in last week's socialist, 60 jobs are under threat as well as classes for some of the most needy members of society.
Robbie Coburn who works in Basic Education and Training summed up the reasons why she and her colleagues are now planning more industrial action in May. She quoted the response of one of her students to an Ofsted inspector's question: "What does coming to Hackney College mean for you?" - "It gives me hope!".
A lecturer from Tower Hamlets, speaking from experience of a struggle in her college, was adamant that the first response of management must be to refuse to implement the cuts and to demand the money from central government. All of the candidates promised 'help' but few came anywhere near to promising full support to a campaign along these lines.
Paul Mackney, the general secretary of the lecturers' union, NATFHE, touched a chord when he said the new Secretary of State for education cannot understand: "The daily miracles that go on in the classroom". But he was unable to give a real perspective for winning this struggle and the many others going on in higher and further education around the country.
The HCC branch officers are linking up with other colleges involved in action to strengthen their own fight. "We'll be striking for two days," James Drummond told us. "We'll be twinning our dispute with London Metropolitan University. NATFHE members there are striking during the week of 17 May over the imposition of new casualised, inferior contracts."
A student at the meeting pledged her support and that of her colleagues whenever the lecturers go on strike. UNISON members are also preparing to be involved in the action.
The effective privatisation of the colleges under Thatcher, continued under New Labour, has led directly to a worsening of all conditions for lecturers including wages as well as loss of jobs.
The national union has at last begun to rectify this with a strategy to set national levels of pay and conditions with the employers' national forum. Unfortunately, many colleges refused to implement the terms of the national deal locally. What is needed is for national action by the union that can raise the confidence of lecturers, including on the issue of defending jobs such as in Hackney.
Please send messages of support to Maggie Carman, NATFHE, Hackney Community College, Falkirk St, London N1 6HQ. email@example.com
In The Socialist 6 May 2005: