THE FIRST joint strike in higher education in the London area was held on Thursday of last week. Two unions, the AUT and Natfhe, represent lecturers in the old universities and the 'new' universities (ex polytechnics). They joined with members of two other unions representing support staff, Unison and Amicus, to strike for an increase in the London weighting allowance. The demand is for £4,000 a year.
The ballot for industrial action showed large majorities for strike action in response to the employers' derisory offer of 3.5 percent. The Greater London Authority recently published a review recommending that London's public sector workers should receive London weighting equal to 33 percent of their basic salary.
The Metropolitan Police already receive London allowances of £6,000. They also travel free on London transport. The strike was an outstanding success. London Metropolitan University, formed when the University of North London and Guildhall University merged, was completely shut down. Three out of the six campuses at Middlesex University were closed.
At the School of Oriental and African Studies in central London only two members of staff reported for work, so the library was shut. The library at University College London also had to close. The Ofsted inspection team agreed not to cross picket lines at Middlesex University.
The picket lines at University College London and Greenwich University turned deliveries away. Striking firefighters joined the picket lines at some universities, and pickets went down to FBU picket lines to express solidarity. Despite appalling weather some 700 university staff staged a rally outside the employers' headquarters and then marched to the TUC for a meeting. Simon Renton from University College AUT called for a programme of strikes, saying, 'We can bring London to a standstill.'
Linda Smith, a striking firefighter, got an enthusiastic reception when she said that we should be 'out together, stick together and win together'. Paul Mackney, Natfhe general secretary, urged everyone to join the NUS 'Grants not fees' march on 4 December with their branch banners.