The Marxist Student Federation offers its solidarity with Unison comrades at King’s College London, who have just voted overwhelmingly for strike action against their private-sector employers, Servest.
Much of the university’s non-academic workforce has been privatised and sold off to parasitical firms like Servest, who abuse their workforces with impunity and are subject to zero accountability.
Before Christmas, cleaners at King’s received letters informing them of imminent sackings and pay reductions. These cuts represent a callous attack on workers on campus, in which King’s and its capitalist partners are complicit.
Fortunately, the unionised cleaning staff are gearing up for a fight.
In 2016, 80 UNISON members signed a collective grievance, citing a lack of cover staff for sick and maternity leave, problems with payments, shortage of uniforms and equipment and unreasonable workloads.
Following a number of well-attended and energetic demonstrations in front of Strand campus, the local Unison branch balloted its members for industrial action, and 90 per cent voted in favour.
A second ballot found that 98 of local Unison members support strike action, representing near-unanimous solidarity.
The strike dates have been set for Thursday 26 and Friday 27 of January, and needless to say KCL Marxists will be on the picket lines, shoulder to shoulder with our Unison comrades.
We support Unison’s demand that all cleaning staff be brought in-house, so that King’s is made accountable for their pay and treatment, but we cannot stop there.
In 2015, King’s Estates dismissed 30 members of staff following the introduction of the London living wage for all university employees. Evidently, the university bosses are no better than Servest.
Between engagement with TEF, plans to hike student fees, stagnant lecturer pay, mass firings of non-academic workers and six-figure salaries for senior management, King’s is an especially shameful example of the acute exploitation that goes on at UK universities.
It is essential that students and university employees stand together in opposition to the fat-cat provosts and vice-chancellors; as well as their capitalist cronies.
We demand that education be made free – paid for by the expropriated wealth of the bankers and bosses – and that all university employees receive decent wages and treatment.
This begins with collective action by students and unionists on campus, which must become a stepping stone towards unified opposition across the entire labour movement.
From there, university workers and students must fight for socialism alongside proletarians from all sectors, starting with a one-day general strike that will stop Theresa May’s squabbling, tremulous Tory government in its tracks.
Only in this way can we liberate universities from the grip of capitalism and bring an end to the abuse of workers on campus.
Forward to victory, Unison comrades!