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Lecturers on strike at Tower Hamlets college over cuts

PUBLISHED: 16:59 26 August 2009 | UPDATED: 14:46 05 October 2010

HUNDREDS of college lecturers are going on indefinite strike in East London. They are picketing Tower Hamlets college campuses in Poplar, Stepney and Bethnal Green from 7.30 in the morning.

By Mike Brooke

HUNDREDS of college lecturers are going on indefinite strike in East London.

They are picketing Tower Hamlets college campuses in Poplar, Stepney and Bethnal Green from 7.30 in the morning.

It follows the break down of today’s talks with the college after four hours over scrapping 13 posts which the UCU lecturers’ union says will mean cuts to adult English classes for speakers of foreign languages in one of Britain’s poorest areas.

The strike has been targeted to coincide with the first day of enrolment at the college. The union said today it was continuing to press for fresh talks and that strike action was “a desperate last resort.”

Funding cuts mean around 1,000 places on courses for English for speakers of other languages are at risk, with 13 lecturers facing losing their jobs and many thousands of people in Tower Hamlets losing the chance to learn English in one of Britain’s most hard-hit boroughs.

DEPRIVED

“We are standing up to defend education in a deprived community,” said sociology lecturer Richard McEwan, the union branch secretary at the college.

“The Government is cutting education funding which will scrap the English courses.

“But there are at least 1,000 people in the East End who need to enrol to help them into work.

“We want the Principal to stand up to the Government and fight with us for education.”

But college Principal Michael Farley slammed back at the lecturers for disrupting the enrolment of new students.

“The industrial action will disrupt students’ ability to enrol,” he said in a statement. “It will prevent access to much-needed education.”

OBSTACLES

“Many people have battled through obstacles for their right to education.

“Negotiating a picket line is an unfair additional and unnecessary barrier.”

The Government’s Learning & Skills Council has reduced the overall college funding by almost £1m over the last three years.

The college has been using its reserves to cover the cost of unfunded courses, it says, but regretted “some compulsory redundancies have had to be made.”

Around 2,000 students were due to enrol in the language courses by next week.

Strikers are picketing from 7.30am outside the main college building in Poplar High Street as well as Arbour Square in Stepney and at Bethnal Green.


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