Manchester College, the largest FE college in the UK is bent on breaking its UCU (Universities & Colleges Union) branch. Despite promises on job security after merger and with no attempt to negotiate voluntary redundancy or redeployment, bosses announced in June that 13 teaching posts were to be cut. The fact that the UCU secretary’s post is among the first to go clearly signals management’s intent.
A strike ballot gained 74% backing and a one day strike ensued on July 1st. There were pickets at all of the college’s sites across the city, with Manchester EWN-SF (Education Workers’ Network) attending the picket at the Sheena Simon campus in the city centre. Meanwhile, a lively and noisy march, started from the Openshaw campus, swelled to 250+ after passing Sheena Simon, and attracted much attention as it wound through the city centre.
Later an assembly of strikers and supporters included a useful discussion on the day’s activities, and a fruitful planning session on taking the struggle forward. By announcing the cuts at the end of the academic year, bosses think resistance may peter out. The fact the meeting set the next strike day to hit the August enrolment process and created an email for communication and preparation will surely prevent that.
The effects of the financial crisis are being felt in education, and a funding crisis is looming large. Already Manchester College has been wielding the axe, with the planned closure of the nursery at the Northenden campus. The attack on the UCU is a clear attempt to remove it as an obstacle to further cuts. Leaving bosses a free hand to make cuts as they please is not an option. Only by showing the type of resolve demonstrated by these Manchester College workers will we stand any chance of defending our pay, our working conditions and ultimately our jobs.