The world would be much better off if certain leftists dared to stick their necks out and give full-throated resistance against imperialist aggression without prefacing it with umpteen excuses, extrications and disavowals designed to keep them in at least some of the good graces of ‘polite society’.
Between Thursday 13th until Friday 14th of June, the University of London Justice for Workers campaign launched and briefly defended an occupation at Senate House in London, as part of their resolute campaign to bring all outsourced UoL staff in-house immediately. The occupation was, unfortunately, violently dispersed on Friday evening, when private security hired by the university physically dragged the occupiers out of Senate House.
As many of us know, the university relies heavily on outsourced staff–e.g. cleaners, security, front-of-house staff etc.–who face significantly worse working conditions than directly employed workers. This amounts not just to shameless exploitation but to a régime of institutional racism, as mostly non-white, migrant workers are effectively super-exploited by the university. This régime leaves them facing harassment, isolation, lower pay, lack of pensions and sick pay, and lack of access to university facilities such as the staff cafeteria, while the university profits enormously from this arrangement.
We know by now that the issue is generalised across UoL colleges (KCL, UCL, Goldsmiths), and despite the brave and stubborn struggle of activists and unions such as the IWGB, the university has restricted itself to concessions such as partial in-housing. Around 10% of front-of-house staff are now directly employed, but the other 90% remain outsourced and have received nothing but empty excuses so far.
Meanwhile, UoL continues to threaten and sabotage protests and campaigns, and refuses to engage honestly with the IWGB. Already in the first 24 hours of this occupation, UoL security had attempted to ‘freeze out’ the occupation by turning on the air conditioning, disabled the pulley system used to deliver crucial supplies, and attempted to drive out the occupiers through the deployment of a fire alarm. We received ongoing reports that the police and G4S had been present at the scene over the course of Friday the 14th. By the time the sun set, the occupation had ended due to the disproportionately violent security intervention.
This shows the comfort with which representatives of the ruling class utilise indiscriminate force against workers, activists, and organisers who stand up for justice and dignity. It is, of course, a reflection of the status quo in wider capitalist society, where the police and armed forces are relied upon to break up progressive movements here and abroad, never siding with workers in their confrontation with the interests of capitalism.
Red Fightback stands in full solidarity with the Senate House occupation, whose stated aims reflect the frustration and anger that many of us feel at the inexcusable situation inside UoL. While the occupation is now over, the fight must and will go on. We also take this opportunity to restate our support for Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action, who are now close to the 100th day of a courageous occupation of Deptford Town Hall, and for whom justice for workers is also a central demand. Senate House has also been subject to a boycott over working conditions, and recently the UCU voted to support the boycott in an inspiring act of solidarity. We extend our support to this initiative also.
We urge our supporters to follow these campaigns closely and provide material support where possible. The full statement released by the Senate House occupation is available here: https://twitter.com/UoLJ4W/status/1139237039927414784.
Further updates on the outcome of Friday’s events are available via the Justice for Workers twitter account – @UoLJ4W.
We continue to fight until our final victory over exploitation. Solidarity and strength!