Solidarity Brings Victory for UCU over Victimisation at Coleg Harlech

Trade unionists were quick to respond to the victimisation of three activists in the University and College Union (UCU) this past week.

Edmund Schluessel, Cardiff University UCU (in a personal capacity)

Craig Lewis, a member of the UCU National Executive; Peter Jones, vice-chair of UCU Wales; and Ray Williams, a members' representative were all suspended and threatened with disciplinary action by Principal Trefor Owen of Coleg Harlech, which covers multiple campuses in north-west Wales.

The suspension followed UCU members at the college raising multiple grievances with college administration, not least management's decision to put tutors out of pocket for travel expenses between the college's teaching sites -- two of which are ninety miles apart. The college was also depriving tutors of holiday pay without proper consultation.

College management should have known better than to target the three, all tutors in industrial education with extensive experience organising trade unionists. Within hours of the suspension, UCU and Unite members, National Shop Stewards Network supporters and Socialist Party members from across Britain flooded the principal's e-mail box with so many messages of solidarity and support for the three that it shut down. Four days of the announcement of the suspensions, college management capitulated, lifted the suspensions, withdrew the threat of disciplinary action and promised to pay money owed for holiday work.

The victory at Coleg Harlech is the latest instance of the targeting of UCU activists in Wales. Over the past two years, branch secretaries Hamish Murphy at Glyndwr University and Liza van Zyl at University of Glamorgan were both forced from their jobs over their trade union activities, while UCU Wales president and Coleg Morgannwg lecturer Guy Stoate was saved from disciplinary action by a spontaneous walkout of UCU members followed by the threat of strike action in May 2011 (see "Coleg Morgannwg: Victory over victimisation", The Socialist, 17 July 2011).

Craig, Peter and Ray extend their thanks to all who provided support.

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