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College workers strike against vicious cuts
About 400 students, education workers and supporters gathered in Altab Ali Park in Aldgate to rally in support of the striking UCU members at Tower Hamlets college in East London.
The workers are taking indefinite strike action against the severe cuts management want to make to courses and against the sacking of staff. College management want to slash up to 1,000 ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) places.
As many as 90 people could lose their jobs. Yet the college's management is to be increased by 15 and the principal earns around £160,000 a year. Over the summer the management sent letters to 13 lecturers telling them they had no jobs.
Several of the speakers were students for whom English is not their first language. They explained that the cuts would have a dramatic effect on their lives particularly when looking for work.
John McLaughlin from Tower Hamlets Unison announced that the results of the ballot for action of Unison members at the college would be announced the following Monday, meaning that the whole of the college workforce could be on strike.
This was generally a very good rally and showed the level of community support for the strikers and the struggle against cuts at the college. However, incredibly the organisers allowed the leader of the Tory group on Tower Hamlets council and prospective Tory parliamentary candidate in Tower Hamlets to address the rally. Why was this person allowed to speak when, as some of the other speakers at the rally had made clear, the Tories are vying with New Labour about how many cuts they can make to public services?
Tower Hamlets is one of the worst hit so far, but several London colleges face massive cuts this year. Staff and students cannot be left to fight on a college-by-college basis. A united national fight to defend education is necessary.
Socialist Party members got a good response to this demand. 16 copies of The Socialist were sold and six people filled in cards to find out more about the Socialist Party.