Workers’ Fightback: Update 7

This last week has been a momentous one for our young phoenix of resistance as it rises from the flames of economic devastation, because we have witnessed the first major link-up between this generation of students and workers in struggle in the UK.

Last Friday (12th June), cleaners at the School of African and Oriental Studies in Camden were instructed to attend an early morning meeting. The gathering was then raided by around fifty police in riot gear. The cleaners were then locked in the room, and nine were taken into detention. The cleaning contractor – ISS – is known to have requested the police action, which coincided with a rally that was due to take place in support of another sacked ISS employee. The cleaners were in the process of unionising, and had just won the London Living Wage.

In response to what seems to have been a horrific act of collective punishment, students occupied part of the university, starting on Monday. On Thursday, the student union and SOAS principal Paul Webly agreed to the following points, and the occupation ended:

1. SOAS will write directly to the Home Secretary within 12 hours of the end of the protest, requesting that he grants exceptional leave to remain in the UK those cleaners who are still being detained. In addition; SOAS will request the immediate return of those who have been deported and exceptional leave to remain for those forced into hiding by Friday’s raid.

2. SOAS will open discussions with ISS, and separately with UNISON, UCU and the SU to review in detail the events of last Friday.

3. SOAS will discuss the possibility of bringing cleaning services in-house at the next scheduled meeting of its governing Body.

4. SOAS will meet with the relevant unions to discuss health and safety issues relating to immigration raids and acknowledge UCU policy of non-compliance with immigration raids.

5. SOAS will not take action against those involved in the protest.

Socialist Worker immediately and uncritically declared an “important victory”, though a correspondent in The Commune was more circumspect. Anyway, as always, more support is still needed, and the issue is not dead yet. Click here for the ‘Stop the Deportation of SOAS University cleaners!’ group.

Open hostilities have resumed at the Total Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire, following a spate of sackings and walkouts. On Wednesday 10th June, fifty-one workers were given ‘imminent redundancy notices’ by the Shaw sub-contractor. On Thursday 11th, Shaw employees went on wildcat strike, and were supported by scaffolders, electricians and workers of other trades and other sub-contractors. Management refused to negotiate, and stated the fifty-one would still be sacked. At a mass meeting on Wednesday 17th, the Lindsey workers decided to remain on strike until the redundancies are withdrawn. However, today (Friday), Total confirmed they are sacking a further nine hundred workers. Solidarity wildcats have broken-out at refineries around the country this week. Click here for the (non-nationalist) ‘Reinstate the 900 workers at Lindsey oil refinery’ group.

Meanwhile, LibCom reports that “workers in the warehouse for the Swedish state’s alcohol monopoly have started a wildcat strike in response to management attempts to replace the workforce with short term workers”. Having got short shrift from union reps, they struck anyway and blockaded the warehouse, until riot police cleared a path for strike-breakers. Still, snaps supplies are way down, and workers have moved their blockade to the Systembolaget (Swedish Alcohol Retail Monopoly) HQ in Stockholm.

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