The London Region solidarity meeting on Day 4 of the latest HE strikes saw Labour, trade union leaders and strikers come together to raise money and show their support for UCU members taking action.
Speaking from the platform, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell pledged that “we will do all we can in parliament to support you”, adding “the battle is here, it’s on the picket lines and it’s in the streets.”
Mark Serwotka PCS general secretary pledged his union would make a donation “in the thousands” to the union hardship fund. Alongside big pledges from national leaders of Unite, NEU, PCS and other unions, the meeting heard how Brent teachers had voted to make a donation of £500.
Similar donations and pledges to collect were announced from UNISON branches. RMT workers arrived with a collection of £65 they had just made at the Waterloo depot. The UCU branch for the UAL is raising money for its hardship fund using Go Fund Me and had raised over £2,000 within the first few days of action.
A rep from Tower Hamlets Unison informed the meeting it had donated £500 to Queen Mary’s UCU. Speakers from the platform and the floor applauded the action being taken and see our fight on pensions, equality workload, an end to precarious contracts and pay as part of a wider battle for social justice. City and Islington College UCU offered their solidarity to the meeting. They have collected £300 from members and are organising a levy for HE strikers.
CWU President Jane Loftus gave her union’s solidarity to the dispute, explaining that CWU members are reballoting for strike soon, and declared “it’s all the same dispute — the system is broken.”
Colleen Johnson NEU Executive member brought solidarity greetings and spoke movingly about the discrimination taking place within education as cutbacks and marketisation left disabled workers without adaptations and working on precarious contracts.
UCU Open University President Lesley Kane explained that the current strike wave has its roots in UCU’s ongoing campaign against casualisation. She described how the last USS strike had given her branch the confidence to take on their employers and win a significant victory that saw 4000 OU staff moved from casual to permanent contracts. Debby Pope from the Chicago Teachers Union spoke of their successful strikes last year that won concessions on pay, hours and support for students and how solidarity helped them.
The meeting was an important initiative by the Region and it reflected the fantastic support that exists across the whole of the trade union movement for UCU’s strike action. Our sister unions are ready and willing to help us, and they see our action as the first step in the fight back against against this government and for social justice. As Richard Burgon MP told the meeting “The Trade Union movement is now the official opposition to austerity.”