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Reports round-up—Call action in colleges now

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Issue 2628
UCU members taking action in March during a dispute over pensions
UCU members taking action in March during a dispute over pensions (Pic: Guy Smallman)

UCU union members are fighting for pay strikes following ballots in higher and further education.

The ballots saw some 85 percent of FE members and 69 percent of HE members vote to support strikes.

But the vast majority of branches did not meet the Tories’ 50 percent turnout threshold.

The union should name strike dates for the branches that met the threshold now. And it should reballot branches that got a 35 percent turnout or more.

In many cases, beating the threshold will require getting a handful more people to vote for strikes.

A quorate meeting of UCU members at Newcastle university last week passed a motion to reballot all branches with a turnout of 35 percent or higher.

Other branches were set to discuss similar motions this week.

The ballots were overwhelmingly in favour of strikes and it’s right to demand that the union keeps up the fight.

But unions also have to challenge the anti-union laws and not simply accept them.

Six colleges out of 109 met the 50 percent threshold. They are Bath, Bradford, New College Swindon, Lambeth, Croydon and Petroc. Seven universities out of 147 beat the threshold. They are Heriot-Watt, Huddersfield, Leeds Arts, Nottingham, Sheffield, Brighton and Courtauld Institute of Art

South Yorks campaigners fight £575 million NHS cut

Activists in South Yorkshire have pledged to defend maternity and paediatric services from proposed cuts.

Around 50 people joined a public meeting in Barnsley Town Hall on Saturday of last week

The cuts are being planned by the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System—a vehicle for £571 million in cuts in the local NHS.

The Integrated Care System is planning to reduce consultant-led maternity units and children’s in-patient wards.

These changes will mean that many women with birth complications and many desperately ill children will have to travel to centres elsewhere in the region. And this will increase the risks to their health and make it more difficult and costly for families to keep in contact.

At the meeting Dr D Kerrin, a consultant paediatrician in Barnsley, said that Barnsley Hospital already provided excellent paediatric care and that there was no reason to change it.

Felicity Dowling from the Save Liverpool Women’s Hospital campaign urged campaigners to build a mass movement to defend the health service. The meeting pledged to fight the cuts by all means necessary.

Tony Nuttall

If you want to join the fight against these cuts please email Tony Nuttall, secretary of Barnsley Save Our NHS at [email protected]

Cable workers refuse to wind down fight for pay

Cable manufacturing workers began their fifth week of strikes in their fight for higher pay last week.

The Unite union members’ picket line outside the Prysmian Cable company site in Eastleigh, Southampton, has been strong and determined.

Many vehicles have turned around at the gates.

And production rates of cables has dropped dramatically from 1,200 tonnes per month to just 800 tonnes a month.

As Socialist Worker went to press, bosses are still refusing to talk about raising their pathetic pay offer of just 2 percent.

The 160 workers have struck on Wednesdays.

The action has strengthened their resolve and they were set to escalate their action from just Wednesdays to every Wednesday and Friday from this week.

This will take place alongside a work-to-rule and overtime ban.

Glyn Oliver

Battle continues against ‘predatory’ academies chain

Workers at the John Roan school in south east London are set to strike on Wednesday of next week.

The NEU union members are fighting a plan to turn the Greenwich school into an academy.

NEU members organised a 24-hour strike against the plan last month, and NEU and GMB union members staged several strikes last term.

Parents at the school sent a message of support to strikers last month. It said that parents “are in support of the industrial action taken by the NEU”.

“Many who say they are against the strikes are also vehemently opposed to academies,” it said.

“We must be united in our fight and support the teachers who all want the very best for our students.”

The statement said that the UST academy chain had been “predatory” in its drive to take over the school as part of a Multi Academy Trust.

The school was threatened with a forced academy conversion after failing an Ofsted inspection. Parents are demanding that school governors and the council arrange a new inspection.

Over 1,000 people have signed a petition against the forced academisation.

Send messages of support to [email protected]

Parents and teachers at Sherington Primary School in Greenwich, south east London, are trying to stop the school being turned into an academy.

Governors and the school’s senior leadership team are looking at “options” for the school’s future, which include becoming part of a Multi Academy Trust.

In a message to parents they said that “no final decision has been taken”. “Joining a local Multi Academy Trust could potentially offer a number of opportunities for both pupils and staff,” they added.

NEU union members at the school have voted for a ballot for industrial action against the plan. The GMB union has also said it opposes academisation.

The school has been rated outstanding by Ofsted. Local MP Matt Pennycook said he was “puzzled and concerned” by the prospect of the school becoming an academy.

Sign the petition at

Divest from zombie firms

Protesters, some dressed as zombies, marched in Leeds last Saturday to demonstrate against fracking and fossil fuel industries.

The Halloween-themed event called on Leeds council and Leeds university to end their investments in companies that damage the environment.

It was organised by Dead Against Fossil Fuels, Friends of the Earth Huddersfield, and Fossil Free West Yorkshire Pension Fund.

Defying Royal Mail bullies

Postal workers united in Maidstone, Kent
Postal workers united in Maidstone, Kent (Pic: CWU)

Postal workers at a Royal Mail delivery office in Maidstone, Kent, staged an unofficial strike on Wednesday of last week.

It was the second unofficial walkout that week, following another in Wigan after a worker was sacked.

The walkouts are a sign that anger among Royal Mail workers about bullying and harassment is starting to boil over. An agreement signed between the workers’ CWU union and Royal Mail bosses last year was supposed to herald a change of “culture” in the workplace.

In a video message to CWU members, deputy general secretary (postal) Terry Pullinger spoke of Royal Mail bosses’ “desire to work together” with the union.

But some CWU members responded by pointing out the bullying tactics they face.

One spoke of managers “intimidating workers for going to the toilet, having a drink or even talking at the fitting.” Another said, “We’ll still be worked like donkeys.”

Norwich resistance to Universal Credit

Over 150 people protested in Norwich last Saturday against the rollout of Universal Credit. Labour and Green Party members joined the rally, organised by Norfolk Disabled People Against Cuts.

PCS union members were also on the protest.

Scarborough beats ‘Yorkshire Patriots’

Anti-fascists in Scarborough outnumbered 40 of the far right “Yorkshire Patriots” group last Saturday.

Labour Party prospective parliamentary candidate Hugo Fearnley reported, “We gathered as socialists, trade unionists and Greens to demonstrate against the Yorkshire Patriots. We sent them on their way with chants of ‘Our streets’ in their ears!”

Appledore workers march to save jobs

Hundreds of people marched to save Appledore Shipyard in Bideford from closure last Saturday.

It was organised by the GMB and Unite unions.

Some 200 jobs are under threat after Babcock International proposed shutting its shipbuilding facilities in North Devon. Trade unionists should support the fight to save their shipyard.

But workers’ skills should be used for socially useful vessels rather than warships.

No cuts in museums and our libraries

A national “Save our libraries” demo was set to take place in London this Saturday.

The mobilisation, called by the Unison union and backed by the Unite and PCS unions, is backing libraries, museums and cultural services.

Demonstrate Sat 3 Nov, 12 noon, British Library, Euston Road, London NW1 2BD

Pay drivers the rate for caring service

Drivers in Hackney, east London, are preparing for action after a 100 percent vote for strikes.

The 32 Unite union members, working for Hackney council’s learning trust, transport disabled children.

They take children to school in the morning, then return for the school run in the afternoon. They want split shift payments, which would boost their income.

Call for an end to the cuts in Bradford

Bradford Families Against Children’s Services Cuts reacted with anger after the city’s Children’s Services department failed an Ofsted inspection.

The group calls on the council to stop cuts and instead invest in the service.

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