An advanced warning of possible future cuts in education has been provided by the decision to get rid of 1600 learner places in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at Tower Hamlets College, resulting in 60 teachers losing their jobs. Similar cuts are proposed at St Paul's Way Community School in the same borough. Staff have protested against these attacks at a demonstration on 27 June and at a public meeting on 1 July, with strike action planned a week later. We are publishing a critical account of the public meeting, written by a comrade who works in this sector.
I attended the meeting on Wednesday evening. It started at about 5.15pm and at 6.45 they finally asked if anyone else (i.e. anyone who hadn't already been approved to speak) wanted to say something in the meeting.
It was bad enough having to listen to NUT officials (and one member of the NUT executive) spouting on about the need for solidarity and collective action, given the anti-worker history of the NUT, it was something else to have to listen to the political advisor to George Galloway spouting on about how George would have been there but for being in Gaza to help organise humanitarian aid for the Palestinians...
It was clear that there is a real sense of anger amongst the workers about what is happening in their respective places of work and so the unions, in a spirit of solidarity have organised 2 one day strikes... on separate days! Two sets of teachers in the same borough striking over job cuts on different days - this is the real face of the union ‘solidarity' - division and pathetic one day actions.
I said that there was a need to discuss with colleagues at the workplace, not to get narrowed down into just the ESOL department, but to see these as the first of many cuts that are to come. It is important also to have meetings with colleagues which are not separated by union membership, as this is one of the main ways of dividing up the workers.
Also, in response to the idea a few others put forward, I stated that returning to local authority control (as opposed to Trust School status) was no different - in fact the government is in the process of abolishing the Learning and Skills Council (the current body which controls funding for schools) and returning Schools back to Local Education Authority control - and it is these local organs of the state that are going to institute the next rounds of cuts in the public sector.
It says something about this kind of meeting that there was no real discussion of any kind. That's the normal mode of operating for leftists - they don't see collective meetings as a place where workers can discuss and make actual decisions on actions, just a place for workers to come and be told what the ‘official' (i.e. union) line is.