Friday, 18 March 2011

Support the UCU strike 24th March


Dear sisters and brothers,

On Thursday 24th March up to 120,000 university and college lecturers will be on strike across the UK. We will be striking in defence of our pensions, jobs, and pay.

London region of the UCU would like to invite you to join us on our picket lines and demonstration on the 24th.

As the bankers continue to reward themselves obscene bonuses the coalition government, via our employers, are attempting to cut our jobs, conditions, and public services, in order that we are the ones that have to pay the price for the greed of those same city fat cats who created the financial mess we are now in. Why should ordinary hard working public sector workers pay for the excess of the few? Why should desperately needed jobs and services be cut, and conditions of employment reduced, when the simple and affordable alternative is to increase the taxation of the very rich, reign in the banks profiteering, and recover the billions of pounds of tax revenue lost through corporate tax avoidance and tax evasion?

The government is trying to divide workers by describing public sector pensions as too generous or ‘gold plated’. In reality, pensions are our deferred wages. At the same time, lecturers’ pay has been cut. The employers made college lecturers our worst pay offer ever last year, 0.2 percent. This follows below inflation ‘increases’ last year. University lecturers have been offered 0.4 percent. If our pay rises don’t keep up with inflation, currently around 5%, we face accumulated de-facto real-terms pay cuts this year of around 8-10 percent.

Lecturers are also concerned about massive job losses and the hugely negative effect this will have on the quality of education we can provide to our students. In almost every university and college, job losses are mounting, with an estimated 40,000 jobs currently at risk in higher education alone. One million 16-24 year olds are languishing on the dole—and the government and employers now seem determined to force lecturers to join them. 

The political context of our dispute is about far more than pay, pensions and jobs; it is about defending education for all.  The lifting of the cap on tuition fees, the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance, and the refusal to pay fees for those on income support who want to learn English, will ensure that education will become the exclusive domain of only those who can afford it. It is this political context that our specific strikes and demonstrations can help expose and build resistance to.

On 10 November, when 52,000 students and lecturers marched through London, they broke the consensus that cuts are inevitable.  They also gave many of us the impetuous and confidence to take up that fight. Subsequent student and worker demonstrations and college occupations have reinforced our resolve to fight back.

However, we are also the first to realise that we cannot defend access to education alone.  We need the support of fellow trade unionists, students, and community activists.  As the old trade union adage goes “in unity there is strength.” We therefore hope to see as many of you as possible on the 24th March on both our picket lines and on our demonstrations.

Details for the London protests and mass rally next Thursday 24 March:

11.30am: London action for ESOL protest, Old Palace Yard, opposite Parliament

1pm: UCU London Region March to Parliament, Assemble at LSE, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE

3pm: UCU London Region Rally, At Emmanuel Centre, 9-23 Marsham Steet, SW1P 3DW

Speakers include:

Alan Whittaker UCU president, Mark Serwotka PCS general secretary, Billy Hayes CWU general secretary, John McDonnell MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Dot Gibson NPC, Mark Bergfeld NUS NEC (pc), Zita Holbourne BARAC,  Rose Veitch, Action for ESOL

In solidarity

Mark Campbell, UCU NEC (London and the East), UCU London Region - SERTUC Delegate

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Support the Redhall workers!

GPTU (the Green Party Trade Union Group),would like to send a message of solidarity to the 400 Redhalls workers at Hull who have been locked out by their employers. GPTU calls for the immediate and full reinstatement of these workers without any prejudice to their future work and prospects and all past earnings paid in full.

We understand that these workers were working on  a bio-ethanol plant, which is a problematic enterprise as far as many in the Green movement are concerned, Nonetheless GPTU maintain that the Redhalls workers deserve fair and proper treatment from the employer, just as any other group of workers does. An ecologically sustainable future can only be built on the basis of economic and social justice for workers, not the type of bullying and coercion that lock-outs represent. Support the Redhall workers!

Secretary GPTU 17/3/2011

Friday, 11 March 2011

A Tribute to Jayaben Desai: Sunday 17th April

On Sunday 17th April 2.30-5.00pm at the Tricycle Theatre Kilburn High Rd, London NW6 7JR
(nearest tube Kilburn Jubilee Line)

A showing of the film "The Great Grunwick Strike - A History" by Chris Thomas followed by a discussion on the lessons of the strike with paticipants.

Organised by Brent trades Council; tickets £5 from

Martin Francis writes "Jayaben Desai, whose refusal to obey a management instruction to stay on and work overtime after another worker had been sacked for not fulfilling his quota, started the famous Grunwick strike, died just before Christmas. She was 77.

I have written elsewhere (...) how this strike in Dollis Hill, in the heart of Brent, was a significant milestone in the history of trade union struggle in the UK - and one that should feature when local schools devise their programmes for Black History Month

As someone who attended the pickets I well remember her inspiring presence in front of the Grunwick gates. This was a fight against exploitation based on race, class and gender and challenged the trade union movement's neglect of immigrant and women workers.

Here is Jayaben's own account of the working conditions at Grunwick:

"On two sides there are glass cabins for the management so that they can watch you as well. He is English. He moves around and keeps an eye. You have to put up your hand and ask even to go to the toilet. If someone is sick, say a woman has a period or something, they wouldn’t allow her home without a doctor’s certificate, and if someone’s child was sick and they had to take it to the clinic or hospital they would say “Why are you going, ask someone else from your family to go”…

Even pregnant women who wanted to go to the clinic were told “you must arrange to go at the weekend.” On the rare occasions when a woman did go during working hours she would be warned that that was the last time. Everyone would be paid a different wage so no one knew what anyone else was getting. And to force people to work they would make them fill in a job sheet saying how many films they had booked in. If someone did a large number they would bring the job sheet around and show the others and say “She has done so many, you also must.”

And here is a quote about George Ward, the boss, that sums up her strength:

He would come to the picket line and try to mock us and insult us. One day he said “Mrs Desai, you can’t win in a sari, I want to see you in a mini.” I said “Mrs Gandhi, she wears a sari and she is ruling a vast country.”… On my second encounter with Ward he said “Mrs Desai, I’ll tell the whole Patel community that you are a loose woman.” I said “I am here with this placard! Look! I am showing all England that you are a bad man. You are going to tell only the Patel community but I am going to tell all of England.”