Mid-July round-up: workplace struggles and other movement news

A round-up of news from workplace disputes and social struggles:

Cleaners at the London School of Economics are celebrating after Alba, a worker who was sacked, has had her dismissal overturned. This was the last outstanding issue in the dispute between the LSE and the grassroots union UVW, and also marks the fifth sacked cleaner to be reinstated in a year at the LSE.

Over at the IWGB, they have another tribunal case happening about the rights of “gig economy” workers, and they’ve also come out with a major response to the Taylor Review on modern employment practices.

In Manchester, the four-week strike by housing maintenance workers employed by Mears is still ongoing. According to an event supporting the dispute, pickets should be running 7:30-10 on strike days at Hendham Vale, by the junction of Hazelbottom Road and Vale Park Way (M8 0AD), and messages of support can be sent to Colin Pitt via colinpitt65@hotmail.co.uk. Strike action’s also been taking place at St Bart’s NHS Trust, with cleaners, porters and security staff planning to take more action soon if the dispute over pay and management bullying isn’t settled.

British Airways cabin crew will be striking into the middle of August over pay and retaliation against striking workers, and Bank of England staff will be holding their first strike in nearly 50 years, after 95% of them voted for action over pay. They’ll be out from 31 July-3 August.

In the dispute at Picturehouse, a call’s gone out for a national day of action on July 29th. You can check if there’s a Picturehouse cinema near you here, and if there’s not, they’re owned by the larger chain Cineworld, who almost certainly will have a presence near you. Lefty Labour mag/site the Clarion has more suggestions about how to help the dispute here. There’s also a new site with more info about the case of the sacked Picturehouse workers.

Over in the public sector, workers at Eastern Avenue jobcentre have just struck again over the proposed closure of 1 in 10 jobcentres. I still have no idea why the PCS are responding to this national issue, affecting 70-odd centres, with such an extremely local action, but good on the Eastern Avenue workers.

In Durham, the heroic teaching assistants have voted to reject the latest divide-and-rule offer from the council, saying they need a settlement where no-one’s left behind. You can read some TAs’ thoughts from the Miners’ Gala here, along with a good statement of support from the Durham Miners’ Association here. The DMA statement certainly makes a contrast to the silence of some within Labour. Anyone in the area with left-communist leanings might be interested to see that the Communist Workers’ Organisation are holding a meeting on the TAs struggle on Tuesday 25th.

The prosecution over the death of Rene Tkacik, killed by his work at Crossrail, continues, with the next court date being July 27th, probably at Southwark Crown Court – exact details should be confirmed closer to the time.

In international news, the large-scale mobilisation around the garment workers’ strike continues in Haiti. The workers’ support network are currently asking people to flood the inbox of Liu Chunmou, director of Fairway Apparel, at chunmouliu@yahoo.com, with messages asking that he stops calling in the police to shoot at striking workers – full template provided here.

Back in the UK, a few miscellaneous upcoming events: the Angry Workers of the World collective, who now have a facebook page, are hosting their next trans-Atlantic discussion, on abortion rights and reproductive justice in the US, on Sunday 23rd. FB event is here.

In Sheffield, housing organisation/tenants’ union ACORN are gearing up to resist an eviction on Thursday 27th. You can sign up to join the anti-eviction committee here, or email jonny.butcher (at) acorncommunities.org.uk for more info.

Manchester has a new radical space opening soon, Partisan. Their opening weekend will be at the end of the month, July 28th-30th.

Plan C are keeping busy – their Leeds group are hosting a social strike planning game, which sounds intriguing, on July 31st, and down in London they’re holding a party on August 1st, raising funds for their upcoming Fast Forward festival. You can read much more about Fast Forward here. It’s a bit of a shame that in all the excitement they seem to have forgotten about their Deliveroo workers’ bulletin, but hopefully they’ll remember about it soon.

 

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Mid-July repression round-up

There’s an enormous amount of stuff going on. In particular, it seems like there’s a surge of stuff connected to prisons, repression and the legal system right now, so here’s a quick round-up of stuff focused on that:

Here in the UK, there’s been a lot of stuff going on for the month of action against IPPs (indefinite sentences). That’ll come to a close with a noise demo outside HMP Peterborough, which was the site of a suicide by an IPP prisoner a year ago, on Sunday 23rd. Then in August there’s another protest for remaining IPP prisoners outside Preston probation office, on Thursday 3rd (fb event here).

Internationally, Tuesday 25th July will be the international day of solidarity with antifascist prisoners. This started as a day of solidarity with imprisoned Jock Palfreeman, and this year he has requested that people observe the day by supporting the work of the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association, whether that’s by donating money via the paypal button on their page, just sharing their social media presence to boost it, or by contacting the Bulgarian government to demand that they meet and negotiate with the BPA. If you fancy doing the third one, then here’s a bit of research on their contact details: this page gives priemna@justice.government.bg and pr@justice.government.bg as justice department contact addresses, and this looks like it’s a few years old, but makes it sound like it could also be worth trying k_panova@justice.government.bg and Terziivanov@justice.government.bg.

In other international news, we’re also now in the international week of solidarity with defendants from the J20 protests at Trump’s inauguration. The Crimethinc introduction has loads of resources if you fancy doing something for it. For supporters outside the US, one of the main ways we can help is to demand the investigation into police conduct at the inauguration is begun immediately, because the sooner that gets started, the better the chances are that it might come up with something useful for the defence before the trials get started. Contact details are:

Call Rochelle Howard at the Office of Police Complaints at (202) 727-3838, or e-mail: dcpolice.complaintsoffice@dc.gov.

Call Mayor Bowser’s chief of staff at (202) 727-6263, e-mail them at eom@dc.gov, or tweet her at @MayorBowser.

The contact template is:

Hello, my name is _____ and I live at _____.

I’m calling because I was happy to see that the 2018 budget includes funding for an Office of Police Complaints investigation into the MPD’s conduct on Inauguration Day. However, with the first trials from the Inauguration mass-arrests taking place in November of this year, it is necessary for the investigation to begin even sooner. OPC (the Office of Police Complaints) plays an invaluable role in investigating the police and it would therefore be unjust for those trials to take place without the findings of their investigation, which could generate relevant information.

I agree with OPC’s February report when it states, “Of most concern are the potential violations of the First Amendment Assemblies Act related to: limiting arrests and citations to specific non-compliant demonstrators for whom there is probable cause; providing multiple audible warnings, a clear dispersal route, and sufficient time to disperse, when dispersal is deemed necessary; and refraining from using police lines to surround demonstrators unless there is widespread unlawful conduct.” A full investigation should cover all of these aspects in detail. It should also cover any and all documented decision-making that preceded those acts.

I encourage you to find a way for the Mayor’s office to allocate current funds to begin this investigation right away. I was unsettled when I read about MPD officers’ potentially illegal conduct in the OPC’s February report on the inauguration protests. People come from all over the country to make their voices heard in Washington, and police here should be held to the highest standards when it comes to the rights of protesters.

Thank you, and I hope you will begin the investigation promptly and before trial begins in November.

Other than that, other stuff going off in the US has included the release of anarchist prisoner Josh “Zero” Cartrette, who spent a long time in solitary for his prison strike organising efforts. He managed to get his original conviction overturned, and so is now getting out, but doesn’t have any money and could really use support from the movement as he re-adjusts to the outside world. There’s a fundraiser here, but if I recall correctly it’s one of those weird ones that doesn’t let people outside the US contribute, so your best bet might be to just send a donation via paypal to portlandabc@riseup.net and include a note saying it’s for Zero’s release fund. Or buy some shit from Portland ABC’s etsy store, if you fancy it.

Elsewhere, at least one anarchist in North Carolina has been called before a grand jury, beginning a McCarthy-esque process that could lead to them being jailed for refusing to grass on others.

In the ongoing fallout from last year’s prison strike, 60 more people who were held in solitary confinement since last September for participating in the Kinross uprising in Michigan have now been moved back to the slightly-less-oppressive confines of normal prison life. People involved in organising for that strike have now put a new pair of zines out reflecting on the experience, which looks like essential reading if you have any interest in this subject, and they’ll be doing a tour across the US talking about it.

There’s also an urgent call to support two aging radical prisoners who are having healthcare trouble – Robert Seth Hayes, a participant in 60s/70s black liberation movements who’s been inside since then, is not being given adequate equipment to deal with his diabetes, and Xinachtli, a revolutionary organiser who’s been held in solitary confinement for years after being convicted of disarming a copper who was pointing a gun at him, is suffering from Hepatitis C and not receiving any treatment for it. Details of how you can put pressure on the prison system to support these two comrades here.

Over in St Louis, things have been kicking off at a jail known as “the workhouse” after a video circulated of prisoners screaming for help during a heatwave. Round two is expected to happen again tonight.

Further ahead, anarchist prisoner Eric King’s birthday is on August 2nd, and there’s a call for an international week of solidarity with anarchist prisoners from August 23rd-30th here.

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Support Dane Powell, first anti-Trump protestor to be jailed

Dane Powell, one of the 200+ people arrested for allegedly taking part in the disruption of Trump’s inauguration, has pled guilty to two charges and been jailed for four months. You can donate to his commissary here, buy him books from his Amazon wishlist here, and write to him at:

Dane Powell DCDC #358 530 DC Jail
1901 D Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
USA

Just as a reminder, a few other prison/repression related news and events:

Here in the UK, the Smash IPP campaign are running a series of events against the endless IPP sentences all month: There’ll be a presence at Norwich probation office on Thursday 13th, a demo at Bristol probation office on Friday 14th, a noise demo at HMP Erlsetoke (somewhere in the south-west) on Sunday 16th, a return to Norwich probation office on the 19th, a letter-writing event in Norwich on the 20th, and then a noise demo at HMP Peterborough on the 23rd, commemorating the anniversary of an IPP prisoner who killed herself there.

CrimethInc are asking for an international week of solidarity with Dane Powell’s fellow inauguration defendants from the 20th-27th July. They have a range of suggestions for what people can do, including the very practical suggestion that people hassle the DC city council, who have agreed to investigate the police’s conduct on the day, but there’s no word yet as to whether or not they’ll run the investigation in time to turn up evidence that could be useful for the defendants in court.

On the 25th, it’ll be the annual day of solidarity with antifascist prisoners. Jock Palfreeman, the antifascist prisoner whose case first gave rise to the day, is asking that people commemorate the day by raising funds for the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association, sharing info about the group, and/or hassling the Bulgarian Vice-Minister for Justice to meet with them.

July also sees at least two birthdays of imprisoned comrades in the US: on July 17th, Dakota Moss, who’s serving a 14-year sentence for ram-raiding a gun store during the Ferguson uprising, will turn 22, and on the 19th, Keith “Malik” Washington, a revolutionary prisoner, organiser, and prolific writer, will turn 49.

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Rent strike wins £1.49 million at UCL!

Some great news from UCL – Cut the Rent:

£££ UCL CUT THE RENT WINS MILLIONS £££

After 5 month long rent strike, UCL-CTR has won £1.49 MILLION from UCL Accommodation:

⚡️ £600k to go to a progressive accommodation bursary
⚡️ Partial rent freeze across 1,224 rooms, approximately equal to £258,000
⚡️ A further £600k to go to a RENT CUT for 2018/9

This makes a total of 💸 £2.05 million 💸 won by UCL Cut the Rent over the last 2 years!

Extortionate rents are a form of social cleansing, which prevent less privileged students accessing higher education.
In the face of rising student debt and the scrapping of maintenance grants, this win comes as a significant step in the right direction and an indicator that students will not tolerate the marketisation of their education.

Rent strikes work!
Victory to the rent strike!
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO SUPPORTED THE CAMPAIGN & THE STRIKE!

// SEE U NEXT YEAR //

After a five-month long rent strike by 200 students, UCL Cut the Rent have accepted University College London’s offer of £600,000 to fund accommodation bursaries for students in need of financial support in the 2017/18 academic year and a partial rent freeze. A further £600,000 is pledged for the following year (2018/19). This win has significantly improved upon last year’s campaign that won a £350,000 accommodation bursary for 2016/17 students.

This will be a progressive bursary that will extend beyond the traditional and limited means-testing standards to include EU and international students as well as students from higher-income backgrounds struggling to make ends meet due to circumstances such as familial estrangement. UCL Accommodation, UCLU and UCL Cut the Rent (UCL-CTR) will work together in the allocation of this bursary.

UCL Accommodation has pledged a further £600,000 for 2018/19, with an agreed amount of this to be reallocated into a rent cut of halls for said year and beyond. UCL-CTR, UCLU and UCL Accommodation will begin working on this process in Summer 2017.

UCL Accommodation has also conceded a rent freeze for 2017/18 across 1,224 rooms, approximately £258,000. (1)

Combined with the concessions won by last year’s rent strike, this package secures a total of over £1.49 million.(2)

The agreement also states that the accommodation deposit will be halved to £250 and the £25 fine imposed upon this year’s rent strikers waived.

UCL Cut the Rent and UCL Accommodation are committed to sign a charter detailing future improvements. This charter is signed with a view to bettering overall student welfare in halls and communicating UCL’s duty of care to students.

Jack Kershaw, a first-year student at UCL, said: “I went on rent strike so that in future a wider range of students can study at UCL. The Head of UCL Estates has stated in the past that ‘some students simply can’t afford to live in London’. This is blatant social cleansing. The only reason the university froze rents and started to offer an accommodation bursary last year was due to the rent strike. This shows that UCL management need to be pressured by their own students into taking action.”

Harvi Chera, a first-year BAME student at UCL, said: “High and ever-increasing rents disproportionately prevent BAME and inner city students from going into or continuing higher education. I felt compelled to stop this ethnic cleansing happening at my university, an institution in the diverse city of London where I was born and now study.”

Last week’s Office for Fair Access report stated that non-continuation rate at university for black students is 1.5 times higher than other students, and the gap between non-continuation rate for the most advantaged and disadvantaged students has extended (8.8% of the most disadvantaged students dropped out of university in 2014/15, up from 8.2%, compared to just 5% of the most advantaged students dropping out). (3)

Shelly Asquith, Former Vice President of NUS, said: “Students at UCL have won an historic victory, with a huge concession from management. By withholding their rent, students have dealt a huge blow to for-profit education; forcing UCL to lower rents and offer bursaries to help with costs. UCL Cut the Rent played a blinder during negotiations, and this three year action has resulted in concessions worth millions of pounds. NUS now expects this to be replicated elsewhere, and will continue to support students on rent strike.”

This announcement follows a significant victory at Goldsmiths, University of London earlier this academic year, where hall rents were cut by 35% – amongst other concessions – as a direct result of last year’s rent strike.(4)

Between 2009 and 2016, UCL has increased the rent by 48.4%, yielding an annual surplus of £15.56m in 2015/16.(5) UCL Cut the Rent asserts that these are tuition fee-increases by stealth, which in a context of stagnant student incomes, rising tuition fees, scrapping of Maintenance Grants and abolition of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) further undermines access to education for low-income.

Becka Hudson of the Radical Housing Network, said: “The victory of UCL students has already strengthened the housing movement as a whole. The potential for the tactic to be adopted by others, to push back against untrammelled rents, housing insecurity, awful conditions and escalating dispossession and to win better conditions, cuts or caps on rent and more is huge.”

Rent is everyone’s problem: a recent study by Shelter found 53% of private tenants struggle to pay rent (6); in London 60% of tenants’ total income is spent on rent alone (7). Whilst this dispute is focused around rents in University accommodation, UCL Cut the Rent wish to be clear they stand in full support with wider campaigns for housing justice, which relate to the housing crisis and other critical issues in social housing.

Link to the media files: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dfY-vj-LZSvjgZnAWbilgdx-7ClfIyKoTQ55zID6eHE/edit?usp=sharing

——————————————————————-

About UCL-CTR:

UCL-CTR is a student campaign group founded in 2014 that uses direct action through rent striking to negotiate lower rents. It is part of a wider movement of Rent Strike groups in universities across the U.K.
For more information see facebook.com/uclcuttherent and @rentcutUCL on Twitter.

——————————————————————-

(1)
Calculation made on the average rent of rooms at UCL at £180 pw
(2)
It was agreed in July 2016 that £350,000 would be made available in bursaries to incoming students 2016/17 and at least £350,000 for 2017/18. £500,000 was also conceded to students in compensation over living conditions. The agreement made on 03/07/17 adds a further £250,000 to the 2017/18 amount, combined with a matching £600,000 for 2018/19.
http://www.independent.co.uk/student/student-life/accommodation/ucl-rent-strike-resolved-student-accommodation-in-london-a7120421.html
(3)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-40429263
(4)
https://www.goldsmithssu.org/blogs/blog/campaignsactivities/2016/11/25/Students-win-over-500000-in-compensation-and-they-are-just-getting-started/
(5)
http://londonstudent.coop/news/2017/01/19/ucl-makes-30m-profit-accommodation/

(6) https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/09/housing-crisis-tenants-shelter-private-rent
(7)
https://england.shelter.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/1250419/Making_renting_more_affordable_for_more_Londoners_interactive5.pdf

 

Posted in Housing, Strikes, Students, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Early July round-up of workplace and repression news

Another quick round-up of ongoing workplace and legal/repression stuff:

The Woolwich Ferry dispute, which has been running since last winter, has been resolved in what the unions are describing as a victory, with the two managers at the heart of the dispute having been removed. The dispute at the University of London, which has seen security guards striking over pay and contracts, looks set to escalate, as postroom staff and porters have both voted to join in.

Cleaners, porters and security staff employed through Serco at four London hospitals run by Barts Health NHS Trust are currently taking strike action over their low pay. They’re in the middle of a 3-day strike which started on Tuesday 4th, with more walkouts planned to run throughout the month. On Friday the 7th, the London Hazards group will be commemorating all those who’ve contracted mesothelioma through working with asbestos, starting at 10:00 outside Guy’s Hospital. The 7th will also see the next round of action in the dispute over low pay and union-busting at Picturehouse Cinemas, with staff at the Ritzy, East Dulwich, Hackney, Central and Crouch End cinemas all walking out. I’m sure support will be welcome at any of the picket lines, but it sounds like the big push is to get people up to Crouch End. Or, if you’re closer to that end of town, Lewisham Momentum folk will be leafleting Greenwich Picturehouse to try and spread the dispute there.

Saturday 8th will see the start of two weeks of strike action by housing maintenance workers who’re employed by Mears and Manchester Working to carry out repairs at  Northwards Housing in Manchester, over both pay and attacks on their terms and conditions. If you can get up to Durham on the day, that date also sees the traditional miners’ gala, and a chance to stand alongside the heroic Durham teaching assistants.

At the London School of Economics, cleaners who’ve organised through the UVW union will be striking from the 12th-15th to demand the reinstatement of the sacked supervisor Alba, the last outstanding grievance from their long-running dispute.

There’s also a lot of stuff going on in prison/repression/legal system-type news. The Smash IPP campaign against indefinite sentences will be running events all montha protest for IPP prisoners held at HMP Risley in Warrington on Saturday 8th, a letter-writing event in Bristol on Sunday 9th, a presence at Norwich probation office on Thursday 13th, a demo at Bristol probation office on Friday 14th, a noise demo at HMP Erlsetoke (somewhere in the south-west) on Sunday 16th, a return to Norwich probation office on the 19th, a letter-writing event in Norwich on the 20th, and then a noise demo at HMP Peterborough on the 23rd, commemorating the anniversary of an IPP prisoner who killed herself there.

Meanwhile, CrimethInc are asking for an international week of solidarity with the defendants facing charges from Trump’s inauguration from the 20th-27th July. They have a range of suggestions for what people can do, including the very practical suggestion that people hassle the DC city council, who have agreed to investigate the police’s conduct on the day, but there’s no word yet as to whether or not they’ll run the investigation in time to turn up evidence that could be useful for the defendants in court.

On the 25th, it’ll be the annual day of solidarity with antifascist prisoners. Jock Palfreeman, the antifascist prisoner whose case first gave rise to the day, is asking that people commemorate the day by raising funds for the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association, sharing info about the group, and/or hassling the Bulgarian Vice-Minister for Justice to meet with them.

July also sees at least two birthdays of imprisoned comrades in the US: on July 17th, Dakota Moss, who’s serving a 14-year sentence for ram-raiding a gun store during the Ferguson uprising, will turn 22, and on the 19th, Keith “Malik” Washington, a revolutionary prisoner, organiser, and prolific writer, will turn 49. And as a quick reminder, another Ferguson prisoner, Steve Martin (probably not the same one who was in Man with Two Brains), recently received his sentence, if you want to send him a quick note of encouragement.

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What are words worth? Laura Pidcock, cheap talk and pay cuts

If you follow lefty internet commentary at all, there’s a reasonable chance you will’ve seen Laura Pidcock’s first speech in Parliament at some point over the last few days. If not, here it is:

Credit where it’s due, it’s a pretty good speech. But, if you know anything at all about events in Durham in recent years, you might notice an odd omission: she talks about “the teacher in [her] constituency who was recently made redundant”, but for some reason doesn’t have anything at all to say about the 2700 County Durham teaching assistants who were told they were being sacked and rehired on new contracts that meant a pay cut of up to 23%. How is it that someone so passionate about defending education and opposing austerity could forget such a glaring example of how austerity’s hurting people in her constituency? Could it have anything to do with the fact that it was her Labour Party mates on Durham council who pushed the pay cuts through?

So, I was curious about what this eloquent champion of working people in North-West Durham had to say about this massive struggle happening in her constituency. It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot. Google’s cache has an archived FB post which is supportive of the TAs, but the post itself seems to have been deleted. And then there’s the reports that she attended the big teaching assistants’ rally back into March, but stormed out of the room when teaching assistants said that the councillors who cut their pay should be held to account and voted out of office. Beyond that, it’s hard to find anything to suggest that she’s had any engagement at all with the amazing, inspirational campaign run by the Durham TAs.

So yeah, I get the excitement about Pidcock’s speech. It’s still far too rare to hear a woman with a noticeable regional aspect given a platform to talk about serious issues. But if you want to hear women with north-eastern accents giving good speeches, there are plenty of good speeches from women who aren’t professional politicians, who will never get the access to the media that the Honourable Member for North West Durham now enjoys. Megan Charlton, for instance.

All that talk, about how “the obsession with hierarchies, control and domination are symbolic of the system at large”, and wanting to see “a place that elevates equality [and] facilitates the power of the people”, they’re fine words, no doubt. But if those words are to mean anything, anything at all, then when something like the Durham TAs campaign erupts in your own back yard, then you support them, you stand by them, you do everything you can to amplify their voices, and you don’t walk out on them when they have a go at your mates on the council.

If you can make it to Durham on Saturday the 8th, I would strongly recommend heading over there so you can march alongside the TAs at the miners’ gala. It’ll be an inspiration.

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Picturehouse strike action on Saturday

Saturday July 1st will see a big walk around Central London, featuring an autonomous bloc organised by Plan C, but it’ll also see strike action in the ongoing campaign for a living wage and against victimisation of union members at Picturehouse Cinemas. I’ve seen confirmation that the Brixton Ritzy, Crouch End, East Dulwich and Hackney Picturehouse sites will be taking action on the day. The big events are planned for Brixton, with a protest outside the Ritzy demanding the reinstatement of the suspended/sacked workers from 4-8, and then an afterparty at the Prince Albert on Coldharbour Lane playing “Motown, Dance, New Wave, D’n’B and monster pop hits” from 10-2. So, consider getting yourself down to Brixton, but if you live anywhere in London I’d encourage you to consider heading down to your nearest picket line after you get bored of getting kettled in Central London. And then next Friday there’s leafleting at the Greenwich cinema to try and spread the dispute there. You can also donate to their strike funds here.

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