A delegation of UNISON activists from The Manchester College (TMC) joined Further Education lecturers and support staff from across the country in a lobby of Westminster yesterday to oppose the savage 24% cuts to adult education. Hundreds of FE staff, including activists from UNISON, UCU and ATL, took part in a rally outside Westminster before lobbying politicians in the Houses of Parliament.
The delegation met supportive MPs including Jermy Corbyn, Catherine West, Cat Smith, John McDonnell and former North West UNISON Regional Convenor Angela Rayner.
MPs pledged to stand in solidarity with their Labour colleagues to defend the FE sector and agreed that education was the great equaliser and needed to be affordable and accessible for all.
Eleanor Bullen, UNISON rep at Manchester College, told the meeting in parliament that “people with disabilities have already been disproportionally hit by government cuts. Now they face another hurdle, accessing education. Cuts mean that it is getting harder and harder to draw down funding to provide appropriate support so students can access further education. Apprenticeships and on-line learning are not always appropriate for many students and we are being told this is the future of FE.”
Eleanor also drew attention to the important work that support staff – many of whom are UNISON members – do in FE. “Learner support workers do an amazing job but we are increasingly hampered by a lack of understanding of our student’s needs, the importance of our role, and the lack of funding to do it. We need to work across all communities to highlight the importance of FE and people’s right to education at all times and in all circumstances.”
Reflecting on the day, Nixon Tod, UNISON Convenor at TMC, called on TMC staff to get further involved in the campaign against cuts to adult learning. Nixon said:
“Although it was an inspiring day, this lobby can only be the start of the fight back against the savage cuts to adult learning and further education as a whole. Trade unions will not be successful on our own – so we need to build a broad coalition of support to oppose cuts. That means we need more people at TMC to join UNISON and get involved with the union, but we also need to get students, ex-students, community groups and college leaders involved in the #loveFE campaign too.”
UNISON TMC would like to say a huge thank you to all the stewards and members that took the time to attend the lobby yesterday.
Sign the petition to oppose cuts to adult education here:http://fefunding.org.uk/sign-the-petition/