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Reports round-up: Delegates argue for action at special UCU union conferences

University workers are battling their union leadership to keep action going in their two disputes
Issue 2802
LSE university strikers on the UCU union picket line in London

National UCU union strikes show widespread action is possible (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The UCU union held the first of two special Higher Education Sector Conferences (Shescs) last week over the pay and conditions (four fights) dispute. This week delegates will discuss the pension dispute. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady has been active in seeking to have the two disputes called off with any talk of a serious fight postponed until 2023. It is crucial delegates to the two Shescs vote for motions supporting escalating action to ensure the disputes are not sold out.

If UCU retreats and accepts the general secretary’s plan, the officials will be responsible for leaving members to lose their pensions and suffer major cuts to pay in the middle of a cost of living crisis. Many activists will be asking now whether we can take things forward under the current general secretary.

Carlo Morelli


Waltham Forest walkouts

Workers in two schools in Waltham Forest, north east London, kicked off their latest round of strikes this week. Strikers at Walthamstow Primary Academy and Connaught School for Girls launched a three-day walkout from Tuesday.

At Walthamstow Primary Academy, workers are fighting poor conditions, a bullying culture from management and an unsustainable workload. Strikers also say that teachers aren’t being paid the correct wage. Workers initially struck for a three day period from 24 March, which triggered over 500 people to sign a petition supporting them.

Meanwhile at Connaught School for Girls cleaners are battling a threatened privatisation of their service. Workers’ contracts could be slashed by nine working weeks, meaning a cut of two months’ pay for low paid cleaners. They are also set to lose access to the local government pension scheme.


A strike against oppression

Workers at John Fisher School in Croydon, south London, were set to strike from Thursday this week  against anti-LGBT+ bigotry. The action follows the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark preventing Simon James Green, a gay author, from speaking at the school.

The Archdiocese also removed those school governors that protested. It is important that NEU members are prepared to strike in order to show that schools— regardless of their religious alignment—should be inclusive spaces for all.


Glasgow workers to walk

Dozens of bus workers at First Glasgow have voted overwhelmingly to strike for pay. Around 60 First Glasgow bus cleaners and shunters voted 96 percent in support of strikes on an 87 percent turnout. Two 48-hour strikes are set to take place from 4 May and 18 May.

Bosses have offered workers a two-year pay deal which would take some workers to £9.48 per hour backdated from August 2021 to April 2022. The minimum wage currently stands at £9.50 per hour. Workers should get ready to take to the picket lines against poverty pay.


Bearing down in struggle for pay

Strikers at car bearing manufacturers NSK Bearings and AKS Precision Ball in Peterlee, County Durham, are escalating their fight over pay. Some 200 Unite union members took eight days of industrial action starting on 23 March over a 1.6 percent pay offer. Workers are now striking for a further 11 days, starting from last Wednesday until 15 May. The strikes include the entire shopfloor workforce.


GSK workers could walk for first time

Workers at pharmaceutical giant GSK have voted to strike for the first time ever. The workers voted 86 percent yes in favour of strikes after a 2.75 percent pay offer. The RPI inflation rate is 9 percent.

The workers’ Unite union said GSK should improve its offer or it will announce strike days. Unite union general secretary Sharon Graham said, “GSK pocketed more than £34 billion in profits last year yet expects its workforce to swallow a pay cut in the midst of a cost of living crisis.”


Showing their mettle in Hereford

Workers at a metal company, in Hereford will vote to strike after bosses offered them a measly 2 percent pay rise. Members of the GMB union are angry that bosses are cutting their real pay. But Special Metals management have said they won’t negotiate. Workers will vote on whether to strike from 6 May.


Threat of Mini strikes brings offer

Strikes by warehouse workers at the Mini plant in Oxford have been postponed after bosses at Rudolph & Hellman put forward a new offer. The Unite union has suspended strikes for this week and next while the 180 workers vote on the deal. If they reject the offer, strikes will go ahead on 10, 12, 17 and 19 May.


Airbus workers celebrating pay win

Over 3,000 workers employed by Airbus at its North Wales and Gloucestershire plants have accepted an improved pay offer. Strikes were voted on in February but suspended while an offer was considered. The new deal includes an 8.6 percent pay increase over 13 months and a backdated 5.1  percent lump sum payment and additional holiday days in 2023 and 2024.

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