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Lambeth students' successful boycott
HUNDREDS OF students and staff joined Lambeth College Student Union's boycott of canteens on 26 January. In all four canteens only a handful of meals were bought. We believe that 95% of students and staff who normally use the canteen didn't do so on boycott day.
Rob MacDonald, President Lambeth college Student Union
Management in both the college and canteen owners Scolarest now know how serious the students are and the power we can have when organised. After the boycott a student union delegation handed in a 1,400 strong petition calling for food at prices students can afford - a common comment from students was: "I boycott the canteen every day because I can't afford it."
Canteen issues affect most students. We complained to Scolarest and the college, then launched our petition, wrote articles in our magazine and researched Scolarest's record.
We then set the date for the boycott, held site rep meetings - involving up to 100 students in decision-making and planning - to recommend the boycott and prepare for the day.
Then we saturated the college sites with leaflets with facts and figures arguing the case for action. We contacted lecturers' union NATFHE, who gave us 100% solidarity then contacted the canteen staff and stressed the action was not against them but their national bosses. They fully understood; they are low-paid and poorly treated.
We are proud of the students' union we have built, but we have no sabbatical positions and many students had lessons during boycott times. We gave out thousands of leaflets and had a successful protest.
Already prices have started to fall. Next day Ribena was 5p cheaper and water 10p. We won't be bought off with just a few reductions. We want a not-for-profit canteen we can afford to eat in. We are meeting with other colleges and await a response from Scolarest after half term. We look forward to other FE student Unions building similar action.
In The Socialist 2 February 2006: