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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Delfin English teachers win contract improvements after joining IWW

We would like to start a TEFL group in Dorset, there are many language schools especially in the BH postcode area. If you are employed by one of these firms in any capacity and would like to participate in this new initiative, please get in touch.

If you are a student, we would like to hear from you also. Remember you can carry your IWW membership in and out of work, and across national borders.


After joining the TEFL Workers Union, teachers at Delfin Language School in London have won paid meetings, paid CPDs, paid sick days, a pay policy, and an end to zero-hours contracts.

Teachers at Delfin Language School in London have joined the TEFL Workers Union, part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). As a result, they have won major improvements to their working conditions.

Prior to unionisation, Delfin contracts were copied-and-pasted templates off the internet that, in many instances, didn’t meet basic legal minimums. After a year-long campaign, the teachers now have paid meetings and CPD training sessions, five paid sick days, a pay structure and contracts that guarantee a minimum of 15 hours a week. With union support, the teachers also won back pay and a pay increase for three teachers who’d been unfairly denied a rise.

Throughout the campaign, workers have stuck together and stood up for themselves and each other. This has meant many things: taking out individual and collective grievances, setting up a shared email account to communicate collectively with management, demanding group meetings with senior managers, and organising a boycott of yearly appraisals.

On one occasion, an IWW representative in Ireland had to pay a visit to the main Delfin campus in Dublin in order to get a response from the school. Similarly, the London teachers’ negotiating hand was strengthened when their fellow Delfin teachers in Dublin joined the UNITE ELT union. Teacher-to-teacher and union-to-union communication increased the teachers’ power and made management aware that national boundaries would not prove a barrier to solidarity.

Throughout all of this, the IWW TEFL Workers Union has been instrumental in offering legal guidance, a meeting space, representation, training, and strategic advice.

One of the Delfin teachers had this to say about the value in joining the union and getting organised:

“I’m not exactly coming up for retirement, but I wish I’d done this ten years ago. All aspects of my working life until this last year have been in the hands of my employers and this has not worked out well for me. I’ll never let that happen again and neither should any other teacher.”

The struggle is not over. Delfin has agreed to meet their staff for formal negotiations and the teachers still want to secure paid prep time, better pay, and greater accountability and transparency from management. The IWW TEFL Workers Union will be there to help them achieve that.

If you work in a language school, the IWW is happy to sit down with you to discuss your contract and answer any questions you may have. We also offer training, advice, and representation in disciplinaries and grievances.

The TEFL Workers Union is open to all workers in language schools, including receptionists, admin staff, interns, cleaners, and sales staff. If you work at a language school and you have a problem at work, the IWW has got your back.

tefl@iww.org.uk
https://iww.org.uk/tefl-workers-union
https://facebook.com/teflworkers

TEFL Workers’ Union launched in London

iww.org.uk

IWW members in London are building a union for all workers in the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) industry. If you work in a language school anywhere in the UK and would like to get involved, please contact us at tefl@iww.org.uk or through our facebook page.

We are teachers, receptionists, admin staff and interns who are tired of bad contracts and insecure employment. We’re tired of being treated like we’re disposable.

As members of the IWW union, we’ve decided to launch a union in the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) industry. But we’re not just a union for teachers. All language school workers deserve permanent contracts, paid sick days, and paid meetings and trainings. Teachers deserve paid prep time.

Cleaners, teachers, admins staff and interns – we all deserve a wage we can live on. None us should struggle to get by month to month. We work hard, we should earn enough to pay a mortgage or start a family.

Background to the campaign

The campaign began off the back of some successful actions in a Central London school where the majority of teaching staff joined the IWW. In the following year, they won a much-improved pay offer, back pay for a number of teachers, and paid staff meetings and CPD sessions. More importantly, the workers learned how to stand up for themselves and each other and to build a sense of solidarity and confidence at work.

At schools across London, the IWW has:

  • helped a group of teachers claim holiday pay unlawfully denied to them
  • won thousands of pounds for a teacher forced to undertake bogus ‘teacher training’ classes
  • won a payout for a receptionist who was unfairly dismissed
  • won thousands of pounds in unpaid wages for a group of teachers when their school unexpectedly closed down
  • successfully challenged an unfair pay review process
  • guided a group of teachers through a collective grievance in order to challenge discrimination

We’ve launched the campaign by distributing leaflets and speaking to many workers at several schools across Central London. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, reinforcing our belief that a union has been a long time coming in this industry where exploitation and abuse is rife.

We’ve also been holding a series of events, including a Union Representative training tailored specifically to language school workers and a “Know Your Rights” training on zero-hour contracts. We also run an Organiser Training which gives language school workers the tools to tackle workplace issues.

Our plans for the future

At the moment, our focus is letting language school workers in London know there’s a union for them. In the process, we’re helping to connect workers from different schools to share stories and support each other. As a union, we’re here to offer training and support.

Our ultimate goal is to establish a ‘TEFL charter’ that outlines a minimum standard of pay and conditions. With it, we can demand that all London schools finally provide decent working conditions to all staff.

We are already in contact and sharing experiences with language school workers in a number of cities in the UK and Ireland.

Get involved

By joining the IWW, we have taken the first steps to improve our conditions on the job. Even in these early stages of the campaign, we’ve shown that by sticking together and taking action we can force language schools to begin treating us with the dignity and respect we deserve.

For too long, language schools have gotten away with lousy contracts, poor working conditions and shameful employment practices. The industry needs to change – and that won’t happen unless we make our voices heard. We have to stand up and stand together. We need solidarity and organisation. We need a union.

If you feel the same way, get in touch.

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!

 

‘Welcome to hell’

scottish unemployed workers’ network

Jim was far from happy when we met him. Rules governing UC claimants who are in irregular employment were making his life a misery, and making him question the whole point of working. Jim, however, is no ‘skiver’, that largely mythical creature, so beloved of Tory ministers and their willing little mouthpieces in the main stream media. As he himself put it, ‘I hae to work, it’s noa jist the money, but it’s getting harder and harder.’ In the last few months his UC claim has been repeatedly shut down.

In the past, someone who got short-term work could make a rapid reclaim when it ended to get back onto JSA, and any way there was no long initial wait to get payments. Now, with the supposedly simplified system of UC, which was meant to make it easier to go in and out of work, your claim can get shut down if even a short term job takes you over the monthly threshold, and how long it takes to start up again is a lottery, depending on when in your assessment cycle your job ends. As we explained in a previous blog, you may be plunged into deep economic insecurity for as long as nine weeks before getting back on UC payments.

In the last year alone, Jim has had five separate jobs, and has had his UC claim shut down on two occasions. As a manual worker who is employed on zero hour and short term contracts, he is keenly aware of the difference between Tory rhetoric regarding life on UC and the sometimes brutal reality of working at the front line of ‘the gig economy’ that neo-liberal ‘voodoo economics’ have brought into being.

And, having worked for a wide range of employers, Jim is also well aware of the ‘tricks’ employers use to deceive and pressurise workers: of employers who take you on but then ‘punt you when their order is completed’; of managers at the Amazon warehouse in Dunfermline who take on new workers and then ‘beast them until they go faster, or get rid of them altogether’; of workers who receive verbal warnings (‘three strikes and you’re out’) for spending five minutes in the toilet rather than the two minutes they are allowed. As we talked, he turned to the buroo, and, pointing to its entrance, exclaimed, ‘There should be sign up ower that door, saying “Welcome to Hell”’.

Bakkavor Factory Newsletter no.5

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Angry Workers of the World


Pay negotiations have started, the union asks for £1 more for all, Bakkavor offered 5p!

We distribute an independent newsletter, calling for independent workers’ action, inside or outside the union, by all means necessary…

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