A five-day strike by lecturers in the Natfhe union at London Metropolitan University last week was a great success, with spirits high on the picket lines and a real sense of solidarity across the university.
Membership of the union has continued to increase throughout the dispute, including a number of people joining on the picket lines.
Student support has been clear at all buildings and in the official support offered by the university student union. Messages of support have continued to arrive from far and wide.
Those messages are being accompanied by financial support as well.
Over 200 people attended a rally at the Holloway Road site on the Tuesday of the strike.
They heard from Paul Mackney, Natfhe general secretary, and from his counterpart in the AUT lecturers’ union, Sally Hunt.
She emphasised the support we have from the AUT and urged her members to back our action.
The local branch of the Unison union has donated £1,000 to our hardship fund.
We received messages of support from other trade unions—including a letter expressing his solidarity from Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the civil service workers’ PCS union.
The strike was rounded off on the Friday afternoon with a large rally outside our Calcutta House site (Bethnal Green) where we heard from a number of local trade unionists.
We also received a pledge of continued backing for our actions from George Galloway, our new local Respect MP.
We also heard from a representative of the student union, which has been threatened with disciplinary action for taking a public stance in our support.
We voted unanimously to support our students against this attack on their basic right to organise.
Management is clearly worried about our continued resolve and growing support. Our action has forced the university’s vice-chancellor, Brian Roper, to make some tentative moves towards reopening discussions.
It is very clear that we must sustain our action and maintain the pressure on him and the governors. Only then will these discussions be translated into the sort of climbdown over the imposition of a new contract that our members are demanding.
This round of strike action may be over but the dispute will continue until we achieve our aim of a new, fully negotiated, contract for all academic staff across the university.
We are continuing with action short of a strike, including non-invigilation of exams, a marking boycott, non-attendance at meetings and other actions.
We have been threatened with pay reductions for this “partial performance” and so our appeal for financial assistance from the rest of the trade union movement remains in place.
Mark Campbell is Natfhe branch secretary Tower Hill and Jewry Street branch London Metropolitan University
Further details on the dispute and how you can help can be found at www.natfhe-london.org.uk
Messages of support should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Any money collected should be sent to London Met Hardship Fund, c/o Judith Ironside, Natfhe, 27 Britannia Street, London WC1X 9JP. Cheques should be made payable to “Natfhe” and marked “London Met Hardship Fund” on the back