University lecturers start fresh mass strike action

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THE THIRD wave of a countrywide strike by members of the University and College Union (UCU) began yesterday with a five-day walkout at 38 universities over cuts to pensions and pay, and demanding an end to casual working by university staff.

A further 27 will start strike action next week, meaning that over 50,000 staff at 67 universities in the UK will be out in a third round of strike action in the academic year. UCU has also opened balloting at 149 universities for strike action to continue throughout the rest of the year.

UCU members are poised to carry out a massive national campaign throughout 2022 against university employers who, last month, forced through cuts to the staff pension scheme – 35% slashed from the average guaranteed retirement pension.

With inflation running at over 7%, the UCU estimates that staff pay is now down by 25.5% in real terms since 2009 while over 70,000 academics are on insecure contracts.

Lecturers and university staff are in the same boat as every worker facing employers who refuse to negotiate and are intent on slashing wages, conditions and pensions.

Across the whole country workers are taking strike action demonstrating that they are not prepared to be treated as garbage but are showing an unprecedented strength and determination in struggle.

This struggle has entered into its sharpest stage as employers and the government look on watching the confrontation that erupted over the brutal sacking of 800 seafarers by P&O last Thursday and their replacement by a scab force employed at a fraction of seafarers’ wages and under ‘flexible’ working conditions.

Despite all the outpourings of anger and denunciations of P&O and its owners, the Dubai Royal Family, for ‘appalling’ behaviour by Tory MPs and the Johnson government, the fact remains that for the capitalist class this is being viewed with delight as part of an offensive to crush the trade union movement.

This barely concealed relish was expressed in an article by the leading Tory newspaper, the Telegraph, last week which stated that although P&O ‘failed to handle the redundancies well, but may end up breaking the RMT’s iron grip on transport’ calling it the ‘most dramatic piece of union-busting since Rupert Murdoch moved all his newspaper titles from Fleet Street to Wapping in 1986.’

The RMT members have been in a long struggle of strike action against pension cuts and attacks on their conditions throughout the rail and tube network and the prospect of breaking the union is now firmly on the agenda.

The hopes of the TUC leaders that the Tories will provide some protection was equally dashed on Sunday by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

He rubbished the idea being put about by some Tory ministers that the government would be looking at sanctioning P&O by reviewing its contracts with the company, especially the multi-million contract for two freeports.

Sunak told the BBC on Sunday that, while he was as appalled as anyone else, the involvement of P&O’s parent company, DP World, in the freeports was ‘a separate matter.’

UCU, RMT and indeed the entire working class must take urgent heed of this war being openly waged to break their unions and strangle the rising tide of opposition to workers being forced into poverty to protect the profits of the bosses and bankers.

The TUC, who betrayed the year-long printers’ strike against Murdoch by refusing to call a general strike in support of them, must not be allowed to carry out the same betrayal today.

Instead, those leaders who refuse to mobilise the full strength of the working class to defeat this Tory government and the union-busting employers must be kicked out and replaced by a leadership prepared to call a general strike to bring down the Tories and go forward to a workers’ government and socialism.

The UCU strike and the anger of workers over the P&O actions show that the working class is prepared for this struggle, the issue of the hour is to build the leadership of the WRP that is prepared to take this struggle to victory by putting an end to capitalism, and replace it with socialism.