Socialist Worker

Workers walk out on third wildcat strike to defend victimsed union rep Sandy Nicoll

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2478

Sandy speaks outside the main entrance to Soas

Sandy speaks outside the main entrance to Soas (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Workers at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) in London walked out unofficially on Tuesday of this week.

It was their third unofficial strike in a week to defend Soas Unison union branch secretary Sandy Nicoll.

Bosses suspended Sandy on Wednesday evening last week on trumped up charges of “gross misconduct” linked to supporting a student protest.

A group of students began an occupation at Soas on 6 October in response to management plans to cut 184 courses.

Workers walked out this week to join up to 100 supporters at a solidarity rally as Sandy went into an investigation meeting with management.

Unison members also voted for a strike ballot and an inquiry into bosses’ cuts.

And they pledged to support the students’ occupation.

Adminstration worker and Unison member Nita Parmar said the charges against Sandy are “absurd”. “It’s bullying tactics against a strong figure in the union,” she said.

“But we will stand with him and won’t give up the fight.”

Addressing the crowd before the meeting Sandy said, “I couldn’t have wished for a better response from my colleagues. The solidarity means so much.”

UCU union members launched a statement on Tuesday morning criticising the process surrounding Sandy’s suspension and demanding his reinstatement.

Within an hour more than 80 academic staff had signed.One UCU lecturer said, “I think management saw an opportunity to try and get rid of Sandy before driving through millions of pounds of cuts.”

Sandy told the rally, “We’ve got battles ahead. We know they want to make these cuts. But if we stick together and fight we can beat them.”

Sandy (right) said, ‘It’s great to have the full support of our general secretary Dave Prentis’ (left) on a picket line in Barnet

Sandy (right) said, ‘It’s great to have the full support of our general secretary Dave Prentis’ (left) on a picket line in Barnet (Pic: Tony Phillips)


The morning following Sandy’s suspension members of his Unison branch met and voted to refuse to go into work. Around 60 Unison members were joined by 20 UCU members.

That afternoon more than 500 workers and students rallied for Sandy.

To chants of “Shame on Soas”, lines of students blocked the main building entrance. Bosses panicked and forced security to shut the doors and close the building down.

Solidarity has poured in from trade unionists, including from the London regions of the Unison, UCU and RMT unions.

Dozens of union branches and student unions have also sent messages of support.

And Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell offered his support to get Sandy reinstated.

Soas UCU branch secretary Johnny Darlington told Socialist Worker, “If it takes unofficial action to make Sandy reinstated—then so be it.”

Thursday’s walkout was maintained the next day and the UCU voted to back the Unison branch’s stance.

Another 400 supporters rallied in solidarity later that day.

One Unison rep told Socialist Worker the charges against Sandy are “ludicrous”, adding, “Sandy’s colleagues stand behind him 100 percent.”

Sandy is an exemplary working class fighter who has been a constant thorn in the side of management.

He is well known for standing up for workers and supporting others fighting back.

Nita said, “We need Sandy—he’s our anchor. And he’s given me the confidence and the courage to speak up for what I believe in.

“I’m not scared to stand up for him.”

Luis Armando, a cleaner at Soas, told Socialist Worker, “Sandy always supported the Justice for Cleaners campaign.

“He helped us win union recognition, the London Living Wage, sick pay, pensions and holidays.

“He did everything he could for us—now it’s time to support him.”

 


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