‘I’ve worked hard here for 18 years… but now I’m left feeling like a nobody’

City and Islington College staff could take strike action over threat of redundancies

Friday, 18th June 2021 — By Helen Chapman

University College Union_CANDI protest

The UCU demonstration outside the college in Holloway

A LECTURER made a passionate speech on the steps of her college on Tuesday as staff try to fight redundancies, telling supporters she had been made to feel like a “nobody”.

Members of the University College Union (UCU) set up a demonstration outside the City and Islington College, known as CANDI, in Goswell Road ahead of a ballot over whether to take strike action.

It is understood that five roles are at risk, while further protests have been staged over out of hours workload and how staff are being observed.

College lecturer Heather James told the rally: “I have been in this college for 18 years. I am a former student also of this college. I am proud to say I work for CANDI, however they have told me now I am not a maths lecturer, I am not a lead tutor, I am a nobody – after 18 years in this college.

“But it is not just about me, it is about every single one of us that is up for redundancy. We have to fight back.

“I didn’t come into education to become rich. If I wanted to become rich this wouldn’t be my first choice of job. I’ve stayed here for 18 years, however I believe in my students. I believe in what we do. It is all about solidarity and we have to fight this.”

The UCU is expected to announce next month whether there will be industrial action.

The union’s general secretary Jo Grady was at the demonstration and told the crowd: “You are doing the exact right thing in telling them to think again. Send a really power message to the board upstairs who could not be more detached from what you do day-to-day or the needs of the students.”

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn was also there.

“I am here to support because I am worried about the future,” he said.

“This college provides the opportunity and hope for many young people. Because of the work you do you need some certainty in your jobs.”

The UCU ballot comes with a campaign already under way by staff who are members of the National Education Union (NEU) and have organised pickets and protests at the front doors.

The NEU, however, has paused its own strike action after securing an agreement over their terms.

Staff had been placed under graded lesson observations – a way in which their work was being monitored which they felt was unfair. The college has now agreed to stop this.

Pippa Dowswell, the NEU rep at City and Islington College, said: “Hopefully, that will mean if they want to make changes, they will come and talk to us first, and come to a negotiating position before any changes been made.”

NEU members had also clashed with the management after staff said they had been told to stay after school hours to interview prospective students – a task which would mean working 30 hours more than their normal schedule.

Ms Dowswell said: “The whole thing has been dreadfully managed. It’s the most dreadfully managed consultation over redundancies that I’ve ever seen in my many years of teaching.

“I can see a workload claim coming on down the line, because this is going to increase our workload.”

Tony Buttifint, the secretary of Islington NEU, said: “We are optimistic that a success­ful resolution to these issues will be achieved soon. If not, the college has been given a clear demonstration that members are prepared to act to achieve their demands.

“Members have shown by their actions, and lively picket lines, how standing together can cause a positive change in their working lives.”

A spokesperson for Capital City College Group, of which City and Islington is part, said: “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the NEU and that the union has called off any further planned strike action.

“The impact on learners of strike action after such an incredibly disruptive period caused by the pandemic cannot be underestimated, so we have done everything possible to quickly resolve the dispute.

“We remain fully committed to having an open dialogue with the NEU to resolve any further issues and continue to place learners at the heart of all our decision making.”

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