Trade Unions step up for future of Living Wage campaign

Alexander Martin 24 November 2013

The Cambridge branches of the two largest unions in the country met on Monday to discuss further industrial action, expected to take place on 3 December. Almost forty members of Unite and UNISON attended the University Social Club to reflect on the industrial action of 31 October, and to make plans for future action.

Unite Branch Secretary, Will Smith, thanked attending members for their last action – described as a good turnout – but stating the need to “build on it.”

At the University Library Bindery, only two out of twenty employees turned up for work, whilst non- Union workers took the day off in solidarity with their colleagues. “It’s lower grades of pay that are struggling, with inflation and bill increases,” Smith explained, whilst “the people at the top” are “pretty well taken care of.”

Particular praise was extended towards the students who attended the picket lines at the Sidgwick site, while disappointment was expressed towards those union members who crossed the picket lines and went to work.

Concerns about public understanding were recurrent. Many of those in attendance wished to state the importance of how difficult life was for those on the lowest pay-grades. Some doubts were voiced about the utility of the strikes. Smith responded, “Last week, [the University] said they weren’t having meetings. Now they are.” (The Union met with representatives of the University of Cambridge last Sunday.)

Smith highlighted the major problem as a “lack of understanding on management’s side about how deeply people feel regarding continual pay cuts.” He noted an “unusual depth of feeling” amongst union members about their current situation. The Shop Steward at the University Library shook her head and said, “We used to be able to say we had pensions.”

Unite and UNISON will go on a 24-hour strike on 3 December and expect a larger turn-out than that of 31 October. When asked what this would achieve that the former strike had not, Smith said, “It’s not getting through that it’s the people at the bottom who are suffering.”