Victories for workers at SOAS and LSE

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Last year saw two major victories for workers’ struggles at London universities. First, outsourced LSE cleaners and their union, United Voices of the World, won a ten month campaign for equal rights with other staff at the university. Their victory means they will be brought in-house in the Spring of next year.

Soon after, SOAS’s 10-year-long Justice for Workers campaign was also successful. Outsourcing of all core staff at SOAS will end by September 2018. The victories at LSE and SOAS seemed impossible just 12 months ago, but now they could and should pave the way for an end to outsourcing across the higher education sector and beyond. At the centre of both struggles were inspirational migrant workers who were willing to put their own jobs on the line to fight for equality.

LSE saw 7 days of strike action with picket lines from 5am until 6pm. It is vital to remember these victorious workplace struggles, led by the workers and their unions, were given a massive boost by acts of student solidarity. At LSE and SOAS they joined pickets, organized protests, disrupted and occupied campus spaces. This all garnered press attention and added to the pressure on management to negotiate with the workers and meet their demands. Furthermore, at LSE a key issue for many cleaners was the feeling that the rest of the university did not value them. In response, students organized regular breakfasts to tackle this and built a genuine sense of community.

This sense of community and solidarity in struggle should be extended to our lecturers and teaching staff as well. Just like the cleaners and other campus workers, it is university management that is to blame for the exploitative conditions many staff find themselves in: if faced with insecure contracts and casualisation, limits on academic freedom, and low pay.

And of course, it is university management that charge us extortionate rents, refuse to provide us with inadequate mental health services, and so much more. Management is our common enemy and as students we should stand in solidarity with all workers fighting for their rights on our campus. What happened at LSE and SOAS shows us what we can achieve when we stand together.

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