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South London college staff vote to strike over cuts

10 July 2013

Members of UCU at a south London college have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in a row over cuts to courses and jobs.

LeSoCo lunchtime strike, 17 Jul 13 UCU members at LeSoCo staged a protest on 17 July which included an hour's strike action More than four out of five (86%) UCU members who took part in the ballot at LeSoCo - a merger of Lewisham College and Southwark College with campuses in Lewisham, Deptford, Waterloo, Bermondsey and Camberwell - voted in favour of strike action. A massive 96% voted in favour of other forms of industrial action that would not include wholesale walk-outs.

Union members will stage a protest next Wednesday (17 July) from 1pm-2.45pm, which includes an hour's strike action from 1.45pm-2.45pm. Staff will rally outside the Lewisham Way campus.

Staff are angry at proposals to close the college's award-winning floristry department. Staff and students from the floristry department have won gold and bronze medals at the Chelsea Flower Show, created floral displays for Gordon Ramsay's London restaurants and taught floristry to teams on the BBC's Young Apprentice programme.

The science department is also at risk, as is the college's Access to Higher Education department, which runs courses aimed at people considering education or training later in life face cuts and job losses. UCU said that attracting people from some of the capital's most disadvantaged backgrounds back into education was absolutely vital.

The union said the college's plans had left some students in limbo as they could not enrol for the next year of their course as it is still unclear if the course will be running in September.

The college has shut down two nurseries, which were vital for students with young children, and sacked the staff.

An important college site in Bermondsey has been sold off to private developers - a decision recently criticised by Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP, Simon Hughes, who accused the college of 'shafting' the local community.

UCU regional official for London, Chris Powell, said: 'The ballot result reflects the deep anger and disillusionment amongst staff at LeSoCo. Just twelve months ago, it was a very different picture when staff were full of optimism that the newly merged college was going to be an exciting place to work that helped and supported our local communities.

'Instead the college is ignoring the voices of staff and students and closing down educational opportunities for the very people who need them most.'

UCU said the college had not carried out a proper consultation on the proposals and, despite several formal requests, college governors have refused to meet UCU representatives to discuss a way forward. Following Wednesday's protest, the union will consider the possibility of further industrial action.

Last updated: 10 December 2015