All out in support of Striking University Staff!

University staff represented by the UCU at 60 universities across the UK are on an 8 day strike starting November 25! Why? Universities have failed to uphold promises about pension contributions and pay, equality, casualisation, and workload.

According to the Universities and Colleges Employers Associations (UCEA), pay has dropped by around 17% in real terms since 2009, even with an overall £2 billion surplus at HEs. On top of this, the disability pay gap remains at 8.7%, the gender pay gap at 15%, and black academic staff earn 12 to 13% less than white colleagues. Over 170,000 staff are also employed through fixed or casual contracts, leading to employment uncertainty.

Conservative union laws have meant that although, overall, more than 75% of UCU union members voted for strike action, only universities that met the 50% participation threshold have been able to call for a strike. This is a perfect example of the political effort expended to suffocate the labour movement in the UK. Thus, it is worth remembering that although not all universities are on strike, all universities are affected by the above statistics.

Corporatisation of Education

This strike needs to be understood in the context of the general trend of ‘corporatising’ universities and education at large. Universities are being increasingly run as a business which means that any and all costs need to be suppressed for the sake of the bottom line. As such, staff have salaries stop rising, recruitment decreases, workload increased, and contact hours with students are slashed. This makes it impossible for universities to meet their social and civic duties of educating the next generation. Students become nothing more than the products on the assembly line of the university factory.

I’m a student, this strike is inconvenient

Strikes are inconvenient for everyone. No one wants to be out on a picket line to demand for their most basic rights, especially during the winter season. If your university is on strike, it’s important to remember that a strike is a last resort and happens only when employers refuse to do the right thing. It’s a university’s unwillingness to treat staff fairly that has led us here.

It’s also important to remember that drops in staff working conditions also means that your quality of education decreases, even though your fees keep going up. We believe that teachers and students deserve the best, and that the way to get that is by fighting together.

How can I support the strike?

If your institution is on strike, do not cross the picket line! Better yet, why not join it and have a few conversations with striking staff to better understand their concerns. Picketers also always enjoy a bit of music and some snacks and warm drinks. If you choose to join the picket line, make sure you follow UCU picket line guidance.

If your university is not on strike, we would encourage you to pick a day and visit the nearest picket line. You can also print out our leaflets supporting the strike (long version / short version) or these ones prepared by the UCU and distribute them on campus. We would also urge you to have conversations with your professors about these strikes and their work conditions as well as ask for your student union to endorse the strike – which the National Union of Students has already done.

The IWW

It goes without saying that the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) are fully behind this and every struggle fought by the working class in the UK and around the world. There is no doubt that education has a central role in our society. The worsening conditions under which our educators work under, from university professors to scientists in research institutions, are symptomatic of the steady onslaught of capitalism which has submitted all activities to the interest of profit.

We believe, as we always have, that it is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. Only then, absent the constant roadblocks set up by capital, can education, and indeed all social services, achieve their mission of empowering workers and advancing science.

With this in mind, we call on our members across all Branches and Industrial Unions to take concrete actions in supporting this strike.

If you are employed by an educational institution, please reach out to the IWW’s Education Workers Union (IU620) on education@iww.org.uk

Download our leaflets in support of the strike:

‘Mickey Mouse’ scabs endanger safety at Heathrow.

Union News

Striking Heathrow firefighters are being undercut by a privatised strike-breaking outfit from Surrey County Council, the FBU has learned.

The union has slammed the “backhanded” method of strike-breaking, warning that replacement crews will not be sufficiently trained for airport or airplane fires. Unite members have currently suspended strike action after bosses made an improved pay offer.

The strike-breaking unit, South East Business Services, was set up by Surrey County Council over four years ago as a separate local authority trading company. Some firefighters initially signed up to the unit, which came with a £3,000 pay package, but pulled out upon learning that the unit was set up to provide strike cover.

Firefighters in Surrey are not generally trained to provide airport or airplane fire cover, which requires specialist skills. The FBU believes the strike breaking plan is badly thought out and could risk public safety at Heathrow Airport.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This is a backhanded act of strike-breaking from Surrey County Council. Airport fire crews are specialists and, quite frankly, this Micky Mouse outfit will not be trained to deal with airplane fires to anywhere near the standard of airport firefighters. They’re playing fast and loose with public safety at an airport, one of the most high-risk locations imaginable.

“Striking Heathrow workers have the full support of the FBU. It is grossly unfair that they be treated so poorly, while executives and shareholders line their own pockets. No one, and certainly no firefighters, should be helping bosses undermine this strike under any circumstance.”

Unite suspended the strikes planned for earlier this week to allow members to vote on a new pay offer, but strike dates are still on the table for later this month.

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No Work Without Pay: Boycott CJ Barbers!

Brighton SolFed
Brighton SolFed has started a public campaign against CJ Barbers, who owe one of our members over two months in unpaid wages. The worker was employed as an “apprentice” for no wages, with the promise of paid work after two months. Unfortunately, this kind of practice is common in the barbering industry in Brighton, so the worker decided to go along with it. After the two months were up, CJ Barbers paid him…£50 a week, for full time work! The worker left two weeks later.

During this so-called “apprenticeship” the worker was given no contract, no opportunity to work towards any qualification, and worked full time hours. This therefore does not meet the legal requirement of an  apprenticeship, which is why we are demanding that CJ Barbers pays our member the full legal minimum wage, holiday pay, and pension contributions for the hours he worked, which total £2821.63.

The worker explains: “CJ Barbers promised me an education and a fully paid position after two months of free labour. This was a lie on both fronts so I quit when I discovered they had no intention of ever paying me properly. They were exploiting my labour and lying about my ability as a barber to prevent me seeking other employment.

“Because they did not keep keep up their end of the deal I am now demanding they pay the minimum of what my workers rights entitle me to.”

SolFed tried to resolve the dispute amicably, offering them the opportunity to resolve the matter before we made it public. However, we received no response to our overtures. Therefore, on Sunday 7th April, we opened a public dispute by picketing CJ Barbers. The management were immediately hostile, with both owners yelling at SolFed members, and one pushing picketers around. However, his attempts to disrupt the picket by pretending to be cleaning his windows only served to provide entertainment for passers-by! The owner also made a number of baseless accusations about the character of his ex-worker.

The owners have also made several legal threats against both the worker and SolFed, and contacted the police multiple times in an attempt to scare us away. However, it’s clear that they’ve realised that this kind of intimidation doesn’t work, and have instead now taken to the internet with their friends to refer to us as a “gang”.

Unpaid trials are a huge problem in our city, and Brighton SolFed has had success in the past  of organising with workers to ensure that no work is without pay.

Our dispute with CJ Barbers will be ongoing until this worker receives the pay they are owed.

An injury to one is an injury to all!

 

Justice for Kevan Thakrar demo at M.O.J. 13th March 2019

On 13th March, the Justice for Kevan Thakrar campaign will demonstrate at the Ministry of Justice to mark the ninth year of Kevan’s solitary confinement in Close Supervision Centres. 

Kevan was first placed in the CSC after suffering an assault by four prison guards in his cell at HMP Frankland in 2010. He defended himself, for which he was charged with attempted murder and GBH. Despite being acquitted of these charges in court, he was sent to a CSC as a punishment and remains in the CSC system to this day, with no indication of when he may leave.

Kevan is regularly held in his cell for 23 hours per day and is prevented from speaking with other prisoners. Numerous studies and papers have pointed out the severe damage solitary confinement can cause for those placed in it. As a 2006 paper in Washington University Journal of Law & Policy put it, it has ‘long been known that severe restriction of environmental and social stimulation has a profoundly deleterious effect on mental functioning’. To quote from a paper in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, ‘psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture’.

Kevan’s indefinite isolation clearly contravenes the position of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and on these grounds we request his immediate release from the CSC system.

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Dopey deliveroo!

Ahead of the valentine’s day strike we sent our demands by e-mail and registered post to deliveroo, who were kind enough to copy us into the e-mail instructing their staff not to respond. Believe it or not, we’ve just had the follow-up:

It’s always good to know what calibre of adversary you’re up against in the Class War.

Skipton’s Bournemouth picket 16th February 2019.

This afternoon five of us picketed Skipton Building society Bournemouth branch in solidarity with Brighton Solidarity Federation’s Housing Union, as part of the continuing  campaign to obtain compensation for tenants rendered homeless by Fox & Sons in Brighton Kemptown.

Dorset IWW supports Brighton tenants against Fox & Sons

Fox & Sons is part of the Connell’s group which owns dozens of similar companies and reported pre-tax profits of £28.9 million in the first six months of 2018. It’s ultimately owned by the Skipton Building society so the campaign is being escalated to their branches and subsidiaries.

Landlord drops Fox & Sons after single picket, whilst our campaign escalates to Jade Software in Australia

As usual we received support from passers-by, the workers at Skipton’s didn’t actually know the company owned  Fox & Sons, they were friendly and even brought us some coffee!

– An injury to one is an injury to all!

Report from the front line: Bournemouth couriers shut down deliveroo on Valentine’s day!

L Bournemouth town centre, R banner drop on A338

Twenty-seven riders struck in Bournemouth. Nineteen picketed the largest and busiest KFC in Bournemouth, others went sick, or celebrated valentines with a loved one. Four scabs crossed the picket line, looking “furtive and guilty” – you know who you are! However four new riders were recruited to the strike group.

One striker assessed the viability of ordering food on the customer app:

“The only places I can order from are ones that provide their own delivery … It worked. I can’t get any (deliveroo rider) delivered food at the moment. … all the town centre and landsdowne restaurants show up … From 9:15 I couldn’t order food if I wanted to.”

Future actions will enforce deliveroo rates equivalent to the new minimum wage of £8.21 per hour. Another striker commented:

The overall feelings of anger, aggression and disgust towards Deliveroo, rose again last night, to a new level. We refuse to let Deliveroo reduce us to poverty stricken workers, who are grateful for crumbs that fall from the company’s table.

The support from other striking riders in the UK was uplifting, and show us that the battles being fought by individual towns and cities are now combining, to becoming a united and coordinated War.”

Don’t cross picket lines!