Strike for the climate! 20.09.2019

The TUC has voted unanimously to support the global climate strike on 20 September. The motion calls on affiliated trade unions to organise a 30-minute workday campaign action in solidarity with the youth strikers.

Here we publish reports by Zareen Taj and Rick Lighten on the planning that is under way in Cambridge and Manchester, with links for information about how you can get involved where you are.

School strikers are calling on everyone to join them on 20 September. Photo: Katherine Hearst

Cambridge – Zareen Taj

On Monday (10 September) climate campaigners from across the city came to discuss the climate strikes at the Cambridge & District Trades Council Meeting. Town and Gown were both represented with delegates from NEU and Unite as well as Cambridge University’s Social Ecology and Zero Carbon societies and UCU members from Anglia Ruskin and Cambridge Regional College. City councillors and planning campaigners spoke alongside youth striker, Junayd Islam (who will be at rs21 Endgames Climate conference on 26 October).

The energy that has been harnessed in the wake of high profile actions by Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion activism nationally has clearly fed into the activism of all of these groups.

John Sinha from Campaign Against Climate Change shared details of how London boroughs have been participating in Climate Action. Although many unions were initially slow to get on board, now branches across London are actively pushing for more to be done. Jane Goodland from Extinction Rebellion reminded us that although Parliament had declared a Climate Emergency, the Tory Government has taken no such action yet. 

Pete Monaghan from UCU spoke of the challenges workers in taking strike action due to their employment contracts and trade union laws. This nervousness was reflected in the way the debate about a climate strike happened at TUC Congress. Initially, a General Strike was considered for the 20 October, but this was amended to half hour stoppage on the day and finally to a show of solidarity on the day itself. Locally, the Cambirdge Regional College will power down for the lunchtime. Anglia Ruskin University’s Vice Chancellor opted not to go for a power down but he did voice his support for the UCU work stoppage.

Similarly a headteacher sympathetic to the youth strikers, but unable to call for school to join the strike, has scheduled INSET day (staff training) on 20 September so students will not be penalised for missing school.

The breadth of support from campaign groups in Cambridge such as Save Montreal Square, Keep Our NHS Public and Stand Up To Racism is helping to draw new people into taking action and connect existing issues of Tory cuts and racism into the campaigns for climate justice.

One person asked if our council will just ‘pat us on the head’ for raising concerns without taking concrete action. An initial response was that we had to follow through and hold our representatives in local and national government accountable.

But the youth striker Junayd put it more bluntly:

If they give us a metaphorical pat on the head, then we will give them a metaphorical headbutt in the face!

Manchester – Rick Lighten

Manchester Higher Education Climate Strikers is a group that was set up earlier this summer with the express intention of promoting ‘maximum support and participation from staff and students at universities in Manchester in the global Climate Strike on 20 September’.

A handful of UNISON and Acorn activists started the group over drinks in a local pub. We now have involvement from staff and students across four universities in Manchester: Manchester Met, University of Manchester, University of Salford and Royal Northern College of Music. We organise activity on our Facebook group and with face-to-face organising meetings. We’ve so far collected 380 signatures on our petition, which asks the Vice-Chancellors of our universities to allow (or encourage) staff and students to attend the strike next Friday.

We are awaiting a response from the VCs but in the meantime we continue to gain signatories and we’re confident that we will gain many more; we’ll be pushing the petition at numerous student society and campaign stalls during Freshers Week next week (e.g. People and Planet; Marxism Society; Campaign Against Climate Change; and rs21).

We have organised a rally on the day of the strike, which will meet near the universities to hear from a school striker, before marching into the centre of Manchester to meet up with the youth strikers’ rally. We’re planning to continue to organise around the climate strikes and other climate initiatives beyond the 20 September.

Film: All Out for the Climate! – Reel News

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