OPEN LETTER TO TRADE UNIONISTS, STUDENTS, COMMUNITY ACTIVISTS FROM LONDON REGION UCU
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
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
Mark Campbell, UCU NEC (London and the East), UCU London Region - SERTUC Delegate