OUR ALL-OUT indefinite strike to defend union rights at Leicester College is going from strength to strength. We started our strike on 2 February, and a mass meeting last week voted to stay out as long as it takes to win. Management have been trying for the last year to make us accept worse conditions. Then at Christmas they simply posted out new non-negotiated contracts, cutting holidays, pushing through Saturday working and worsening other conditions. This is union-busting as well as attacking conditions. Our strike is solid, with around two thirds of strikers attending picket lines. Management's claim that 85 percent of lessons are 'running normally' does not impress students called in to attend cancelled classes.
Most lessons have, in fact, shut down. Hundreds of students have signed petitions supporting the lecturers. The upbeat mood of strikers is not deterred by the sight of senior managers-known as 'the men in black'-patrolling our picket lines.
They have no idea how to settle the dispute. While they wait it out, the strike is moving from the need to defend collective bargaining rights to demands for better, not worse, conditions. Strikers are raising the issues they want settled. From day one we have been gathered up in a wave of solidarity from other trade unionists.
The firefighters' FBU union called us up and brought a bottle of rum to our pickets. Postal workers refused to cross our picket line. Shop stewards in unions across the city are taking collections for us and now messages of support are pouring in from around the country.
This dispute has had a national impact. All trade unionists can see why we took action against crippling workloads and union-busting contracts. Our members have a lot at stake in this strike. But it is also a major dispute for a city which has seen big protests over council cuts recently, and which is set to see PCS members in the civil service out over low pay.
We see ourselves as part of a wider movement of resistance and solidarity. A victory for Leicester College strikers will be a sign that this movement has found its nerve and is ready to roll back the years of defeat. It's time to take back what we lost.
Send donations and messages of support to Natfhe Leicester College Strike Fund, c/o Natfhe Birmingham Office, Second Floor, Alpha Tower, Suffolk Street, Queensway, Birmingham B1 1TT.