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London college lecturers ballot for strike action in defence of adult education jobs

21 May 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

Lecturers in six further education colleges in London are balloting on proposals for industrial action, including strike action, over redundancies arising from cuts in adult education.

The lecturers, members of UCU, work at Westminster Kingsway College, CONEL (College of North East London), Lambeth College, Hackney College, Barnet College and Southgate College.

Employers in nine London colleges were notified in a letter sent on 24 April that there would be an official dispute if they could not provide guarantees that there would be no compulsory redundancies in connection with adult education cutbacks.

Three colleges (City and Islington; Ealing, Hammersmith and West London; and Tower Hamlets) clearly indicated that there would not be any compulsory redundancies and these three have been withdrawn from the ballot.

Balloting for the remaining six commenced on 18 May and will close on 31 May. If lecturers vote for strike action, it is likely to take place on 13 June. Another London college, the College of North West London, may also be drawn into a dispute with UCU as the union believes as many as 50 redundancies are being considered there.

£25 million has been cut from the budget for adult education in Further Education colleges in London. Inevitably, this will result in reductions in provision for some of the most vulnerable and deserving groups in society:

  • pensioners, seeking to stimulate their minds and stave off the effects of ageing, whose contributions through the tax system financed education when they were working
  • mature students, who were unsuccessful at school but are looking for a second chance to gain an education, and
  • immigrants and itinerant workers, who want to enrol for English classes to help them participate in British society and whose contributions to the economy are widely acknowledged by economists and business leaders.

The Mayor of London has found interim finding of £15 million for one year, to reduce cutbacks in courses in ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) but UCU believes questions remain about its allocation between colleges, its impact on other courses and conditions for its use, as well as about the prospects for next year.

Chris Powell, UCU London regional official said: 'The cuts in adult education are striking at the heart of London communities, hitting retired people, older workers and the new workers seeking to fill London's skills gaps. London has people keen to learn and lecturers keen to teach, but despite government talk of 'lifelong learning' teaching jobs and courses are being cut. The lecturers' union UCU is working with community organisations to resist this and to defend jobs.

'It is heartening to see that three colleges have been prepared to assure UCU that there will be no compulsory redundancies.  We hope that the other six colleges will be able to do likewise. Lecturers want to teach, not take strike action or look for other careers. '