Socialist Worker

Strikers at London Met win solidarity on the picket line

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2523

UCU union members and their supporters on the picket line

UCU union members and their supporters on the picket line (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Pickets and supporters defied wind and rain to rally at London Metropolitan University today, Thursday.

UCU union members are on strike to defend jobs, conditions and their union reps. They urgently need their national union to begin a boycott of London Met to pile pressure on bosses.

Bosses are imposing nearly 400 redundancies and have victimised union reps David Hardman and Mark Campbell.

Many strikers who spoke to Socialist Worker were afraid to be named, citing a "culture of bullying" at London Met.

Pickets said bosses have tried to minimise the scale of their cuts. One striker said, "Management say they are only making a small proportion of staff redundant.

“In reality it's around 400 out of 1,200, so about a third. But they count hourly paid lecturers as being on the books, even if they're not working here."

Workers have had to reapply for their jobs, some not for the first time. And bosses are also attacking conditions.

One picket explained, "My teaching timetable last year was 100 percent full. But this year I was told the same workload was 73 percent.

"They're trying to get more out of us for less. And there's the threat of fractionalisation—employing us on a fraction of full time contracts."

These new contracts would spread worse conditions and lower pay throughout the university.

Student Harley joined the picket line. "It feels like the university is in a permanent state of change," he told Socialist Worker.

"None of it is about education."

David Hardman explained how the cuts are affecting students' education. "They are getting remaining staff to fill in for those who have gone," he said.

"People are expected to teach subjects they have no experience in. For a university that's very bad."

Lecturers face lesson observations for the first time and could even have lectures recorded.

Pickets talked of having to promise to support the university's "values". David said these are all ways for bosses to target people they want rid of.

One of these values is apparently "one community, one campus".

Support 

"That means you have to agree with them selling off loads of buildings," said one striker.

Strikers have won fantastic solidarity and messages of support have flooded in.

Unison and NUT union members were among those joining pickets at the Holloway Road site.

Sandy Nicoll is branch secretary of Unison at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He told Socialist Worker, "What's happening here is appalling.

"Mark and David are two of the best trade unionists I know. When I was victimised last year, they showed me real solidarity - that's why I'm here today."

Sandy added that bosses can be beaten. "In my case we had a victory after workers took unofficial action," he said.

"It showed we can win. The UCU needs to step up its action."

Strikers wanted the national union to do more to show London Met workers are not alone.

One said, "It doesn't always feel like we've got the union behind us."

Another said they were wary of taking a union position after bosses targeted David and Mark.

A sustained national campaign, including greylisting or boycotting London Met, would undermine these fears and boost workers' confidence.

Mandy Brown, a member of the UCU national executive committee, spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity.

"London Met is important for the whole of higher education," she said. "It's a test of how much bosses can get away with after the Tories' White Paper.

"The national union needs to make this a dispute of national significance, circulate petitions around it and start greylisting."

Rush messages of support touculondonmet@mail.com

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