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Sixth week of caretakers' strike
THE STRIKE over pay by caretakers at Huddersfield College is now entering its sixth week. Given the sub-zero temperatures over the last few weeks, the pickets have done marvels maintaining a solid picket line every day from 6am until early afternoon.
Two weeks ago, the college held an open evening to meet potential students and their parents. Other trade unionists and supporters joined the caretakers to greet every arrival with collecting buckets, leaflets and UNISON badges.
The college principal, Chris Sadler, threatened to call the police to our Socialist Student members who were obviously having too much impact on students and their families!
Last week, the college invited the union to talks although they said they didn't want local steward, Dave Ellis, involved in the discussions. Despite this blatant attempt to divide the union from the caretakers, the derisory offer of one-off lump sum payments until job evaluation next April was decisively rejected by the members. The strike has therefore entered a critical stage.
The college has started to bring in agency cleaners and the management is preparing to sit tight until Christmas. Although they still have to get up at the crack of dawn to clean the college.
The staff and students inside the college overwhelmingly support the caretakers but they need to be involved more. UNISON needs to call weekly mass pickets to disrupt lessons and slow the college down even further. The National Union of Students should be pressured to support the days of action and call students out on a mass boycott.
In the absence of such leadership, Socialist Students from Huddersfield university are working amongst the students and lecturers to build solidarity action. Two days of action are planned this term.
l Speakers are still available to do solidarity meetings and donations to the hardship fund are urgently needed. Over £6,000 has so far been raised. Send donations to Kirklees UNISON, 20 Queen St, Huddersfield, W Yorkshire. For speakers, contact Dave Ellis, local steward 07969 790037 or Mike Forster 07887 668740.
In The Socialist 8 December 2005: