Unions aren't us, thanks

May 16, 1997

BETTINA RHOADES runs a picket-line gauntlet of union taunts every day, unshakable in her belief that her responsibility is to students, writes Alan Thomson.

Mrs Rhoades, a lecturer in floristry and creative studies, is one of a silent majority of lecturers at Southwark College who believe that the current strike by Natfhe is misguided and is damaging students' education.

Around 150, mostly full-time, members of Southwark's 365 lecturing staff are on all-out indefinite strike over planned redundancies and contractual changes.

She said: "Natfhe is using our students as pawns. The union knows that many are sitting exams and preparing for assessments. I can't let my students down whatever I may feel about redundancies. For many of them it came down to the choice of buying food or materials for their course."

Mrs Rhoades, a lecturer for five years after leaving business, disagrees with the way lecturers are being made redundant in the sector. But this is still not enough to make her join Natfhe, which is the UK's largest lecturing union.

She said: "The union is too left wing. At Southwark it puts politics before education. I am used to comments being made when I cross the picket line," she added, "but I simply have very strong views about my students. It could have used a work-to-rule campaign instead of an all-out strike."

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