UNISON join in as Lambeth College strike enters ninth day

Chants of ‘The Workers United Will Never Be Defeated’ , ‘El pueblo unido jamás será vencido ‘ rang out today from the Lambeth College Mass Strike meeting today. Neil R reports.

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Wednesday, the ninth day of the Lambeth College Strike, began with an even livelier and larger picket line at Clapham Common. UNISON came out on strike today joining the UCU for the first time in Lambeth College’s history. Even though UNISON members are striking for just two days, Silverman, the college principal is clearly flustered. All the pickets are outsiders, according to him. Where have we all heard that before?

Well over 200 people were outside the college for a cracking mass meeting. One striker told me that he had spoken at firefighters’ meetings, and at Whipps X hospital.

Mandy Brown, the UCU branch secretary, welcomed UNISON. “The management wants to reduce our holidays, reduce our sick pay, reduce our notice period. We say no. Everyday new people are joining us. Loads of us are speaking at different workplaces. We have spoken at over 50. Everybody’s involved.” But the battle is a national battle, she emphasises. Two thousand FE jobs are going.

Michael McNeil from UCU spoke on behalf of Sally Hunt. Apparently the college management told her not to say anything defamatory about the principal. “What do you call a principal who won’t talk to reps, and offers lecturers a free egg sandwich if they go to work? You might call them a disgrace. But I can’t say that.”

Kevin Courtney, the deputy general secretary of the NUT brought greetings from Christine Blower and from all teachers. “We are sister unions. There is a worldwide attack on education. Privatising. Testing. Damaging student’s learning conditions. Breaking up national pay systems.”

One after another speakers from Lambeth, Camden and SOAS UNISON, Unison pledged their support and financial support.
Sarah Tomlinson from Lambeth NUT says: “Our communities need more services, not less. And goes on to mention the Islamophobic witch hunt in Birmingham. ‘”Children in the middle of exams have to fight their way through the press.”

Sabina of Disabled Peoples Against the Cuts added greetings, as did Brian of One Housing Unite with another £200 donation. Alan from the RMT brings £150.

Jim from Lambeth College UNISON told the crowd, “We are strong, because we are striking together. How can we accept the new contract? An extra hour a week, savage cuts in sick pay – reduced from a year to 6 months. No to a 2 tier workforce. You don’t increase productivity by making people work harder. Management say the new contracts are modern and fit for purpose. How do you negotiate with people who just repeat management clichés? If they don’t negotiate, we will be out again next week.”

Dan, vice chair of Lambeth College UNISON, pointed out that the sick pay cuts will save management £20,000 but they spent £35,000 on the refurbishment of the principal’s office. “How is it not us and them?”

More solidarity and more money for the strike fund from Mark from LSE UNISON, Steve from Birkbeck UNISON, George from Camden UNISON.

A young UNISON striker, Dominique, told the meeting it is her first strike. The crowd cheered as she said, “We will win”.

Mario, one of the striking lecturers added “This is a brilliant show of force, an inspiration for the whole trade union movement in the UK. This is an insane system.” But he went on to warn people. “The rich want to divide us. The European elections show the danger of racism and fascism. We need unity, solidarity, militancy!”

As Mario finished speaking, a cheer went up as the ‘Tres Cosas’ workers from the University of London marched up to the picket line carrying their IWGB banner.

Sonia explains: “We are fighting for 3 things , the 3 COSAS : pensions, holiday pay, sick pay. We are here to support you. You are about to lose the benefits we are fighting for. Our struggle is hard but united we will win”

There are chants of ‘The Workers United Will Never Be Defeated’ in English and Spanish ,‘El pueblo unido jamás será vencido‘.

The Lambeth College strike is still on the up. More people are coming out. We need to spread support for the strike. Everyone can invite strikers to speak at their workplace – at schools, at colleges but also in offices, in libraries, at bus garages, at train depots, at call centres.

But even if you have no union, even if your workplace is tiny you can still have a collection, invite a striker to speak to a group of your workmates. We need to inspire one another to rebuild our movement. And the Lambeth College strikers are inspiring. And they can win!

Strike website : http://lambethcollegestrike.wordpress.com

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