Strikes and lock-outs

Support cleaners' fight for dignity and fair pay

On 4-5 June 17 cleaners at Ark’s Globe Academy, just south of the Elephant and Castle in Southwark, South London, walked out over unpaid and underpaid wages. The workers are members of the small, radical, United Voices of the World (UVW) union. Their employer, the cleaning company Ridgecrest, seems to have now addressed some of the issues of money owed. Nevertheless some of these badly paid workers had faced the threat of eviction for non-payment of rent as a result of not being paid properly and on time. The workers are now fighting for the London Living Wage, which would represent a...

Support the Tower Hamlets strikers

On 6 July, Tower Hamlets Labour council intends to implement a plan, “Tower Rewards”, to sack its entire 4,000-strong workforce — carers, caretakers, children’s centre workers, housing and homelessness workers, refuse workers, cleaners, social workers, teaching assistants and many, many others — and re-employ only those who will accept substantially worse terms and conditions. Key elements include reducing severance pay on redundancy; a longer working week; ending automatic incremental pay progression; cutting shift, premium and overtime payments; and abolishing the flexi scheme. So much for...

Post walkouts win

At work, postal workers continue to make demands around the provision of PPE, and the implementation of adequate distancing measures at work. The walkouts that have taken place around the country have built up pressure around these demands, and they have largely been achieved in the offices where I work, with PPE being provided and staggered shift times in place to ensure numbers in the workplace don’t exceed levels at which it’s possible to distance safely. We also want to stop delivering junk mail, and prioritise essential personal mail. There was a short walkout at one of the offices I work...

Strikes in Italy win shutdowns

Cinzia Arruzza, co-author of Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto, spoke on 26 March about Covid-19 and workers’ struggles in Italy. It was an online meeting organised by the “Workforce Coronavirus Support Group”, Manchester Trades Council, and Reel News. For Arruzza's full speech, on YouTube, see here. Extracts below. To keep things short, the Italian government didn’t take measures to suppress the virus in the way that China and South Korea did. When they were finally forced to call for a lockdown, first of Lombardy and two days later the whole of Italy, it stopped shops, schools and public...

Students: after the strike, into the shutdown

The fourth week of the strikes by the UCU university staff union (9 to 13 March) saw twelve student occupations: UCL, University of the Arts London, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Imperial, Manchester, Exeter, Brighton, Glasgow, Nottingham and the Royal College of Art. Sussex students blockaded multiple university car parks, Exeter students disrupted an open day, and Leeds students held a sit-in during a University Senate meeting, forcing it to be adjourned to a non-strike day. The Cambridge occupation expanded to take three floors of the Old Schools building, including the office of Chief...

Students ramp up support for UCU strikes

In the last week of the strikes by the university workers’ union UCU (9-13 March), students are escalating solidarity actions. By the end of Monday 9 March there were eleven universities in occupation: UCL, University of the Arts London (UAL), Cambridge, Royal College of Art (RCA), Edinburgh, University of Nottingham, Manchester, Brighton, Exeter, Imperial, and Liverpool. The occupations at Imperial and Liverpool have been organised by Extinction Rebellion Universities to demand universities decarbonise, decolonise and democratise, as well as standing in solidarity with the UCU strike. There...

UCU: taking the struggle forward

How to continue after Easter By a UCU activist As I write, negotiations with the employers are ongoing, and we’re told they’re “constructive”, but we have no further detail beyond that. Greater transparency in these negotiations is essential; rank-and-file members of the union need the right to scrutinise and assess what the employer is putting on the table, and collectively decide how to respond. Lively pickets are being organised in many places, but on the whole the pickets since 24 February seem smaller than the October-November 2019 strikes, and than the USS pension strikes in 2018. Some...

Industrial news in brief

CWU ballots until 17 March By Ollie Moore As Solidarity went to press on 3 March, Royal Mail workers were beginning a new ballot for industrial action, after a successful ballot last year was injuncted by the High Court. The ballot will close on 17 March. It is about action to prevent a restructure that could see the postal and parcel delivery aspects of Royal Mail’s business separated into distinct companies, a move which the Communication Workers Union (CWU) says could threaten up to 20,000 jobs. The CWU is also demanding that Royal Mail honour an agreement reached in 2018 which included a...

Students and the UCU strike

The second wave of (UCU) University and College Union strikes, taking place from 20 February, has been bigger and more active than the ones that took place before Christmas. Student activity has turned up a notch, with students from arts courses and the humanities in particular organising demonstrations of support. At my university (Brighton), before the strike began, there was an open meeting in which staff gave presentations on strikes and the history of collective action. Fascinatingly, the overwhelming majority of those present were women. Following the presentations, students discussed...

University strikes going into third week

The strikes by university workers in the UCU union over their “four fights” go into their third week on 2-5 March, and their fourth on 9-13 March. The “four fights” are pay, equality, workload, and decasualisation. While vice-chancellors and celebrity professors enjoy high pay, junior university workers often have casual and insecure conditions, and low pay. The Cambridge branch of the UCU, for example, points out that the university vice-chancellor is on £492,000 a year, while a library assistant is on £20,130, an IT technician on £23,067, and a research assistant on £26,715. A reader reports...

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