struggle as a second language – interview with tower hamlets college strikers

From Mute: An interview with two workers involved in the open-ended strike against cuts at Tower Hamlets College last year

They describe their criticisms of the union, the ongoing problems since the partial victory at the college, and the state of the sector in the face of government austerity cuts. Continue reading “struggle as a second language – interview with tower hamlets college strikers”

workers revolt against vygotsky – an account of unofficial action at tower hamlets college

The following piece was written by one of the Tower Hamlets College (THC) ESOL teachers who were on strike for four weeks until recently.  For context, it would be best to read our previous coverage – Lessons of the Tower Hamlets ESOL Strike – first.  The article is not current, though it has not previously been published.  It was begun at the end of the summer term 2009, has had a few updates since, and describes unofficial action taken at a training day, which included materials by educational theorist Lev Vygotsky*(whose work it is in no way necessary to be aware of in order to read the following).  The article shows the power of workers to make themselves unmanageable, and some real dynamics of taking assertive action at work in 2009.

THC - workers revolt against vygotsky

By ‘Rachel’

Some local supporters witnessed an open air meeting of our union branch on Friday 3rd July where we had to take the decision of what to do on the Monday of the last week of work. Monday was not a strike day because it was planned as something more important. Teaching finished on Friday and the following week has always been a week of paid Continuing Professional Development – ‘CPD’ where there is a variety of sessions on offer and staff can choose what they’d like to do from a varied list of options including more practical things like learning new software programs or exploring new teaching theories.

Continue reading “workers revolt against vygotsky – an account of unofficial action at tower hamlets college”

lessons of the tower hamlets esol strike

Two workers who took part in the recent strike over cuts to teaching roles and student places in English for Speakers of Other Languages and other subjects spoke to The Commune about the lessons of the dispute.


Tell us about what unions workers are in, their organising capacity, and of their previous relationship with management

All teachers are in the University and College Union. Support staff/admin staff are mainly in Unison or no union. UCU has always been strong in the college and in the two years before the strike successfully campaigned to make 60 hourly paid teachers into permanent employees with higher pay and more rights. UCU also led an unofficial walkout earlier in the year to support our longstanding caretaker who was sacked. Continue reading “lessons of the tower hamlets esol strike”

tower hamlets college: strike solid!

by Joe Thorne

On Wednesday, at the end of the third week of the strike, a mass meeting of Tower Hamlets College UCU members voted overwhelmingly to continue the strike: 156 for continuing action, 14 abstentions, no votes against.

The struggle suffered a setback on Monday when it emerged that the ballot for strike action of UNISON members (i.e. of admin workers at the College) failed 13 to 12.  Apparently, however, a mass meeting of UNISON members last week voted 60 strong for strike action, with 3 abstentions.  Some UNISON members did not receive a ballot paper (often the case in strikes – members not receiving ballots need to be chased up, and replacements must be arranged).  But, in part, the result is also a reflection of an the atomising procedure that is the secret ballot: which is established in law specifically because it makes it harder to organise collective action.

However, the strike remains strong.  Picket lines are always welcoming, receptive, and worth a visit.  (Locations and other ideas for how you can help on our previous report.)  The strike fund stands at an impressive £25,000, though with 250 striker in their fourth week without work to support, it does need to be augmented.  The strike has a number of positive features which the whole movement can learn from: Continue reading “tower hamlets college: strike solid!”