UCU strike solidarity, and action against BP greenwashing (What’s Happening newsletter #18)

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BP-sponsored Stonehenge exhibition targeted at British Museum 

On Sunday 20 February, BP or not BP? ‘actorvists’ posed as BP staff in front of the new BP-supported Stonehenge exhibition and told visitors about their plans to drill for oil under the famous monument.

Last week, Real Media contributed to a Channel 4 news story along with Culture Unstained, uncovering the existence of an unaccountable but influential advisory group at the museum which includes BP, along with other large energy and arms corporations. Watch out for Real Media’s film about Sunday’s action on social media later this week.

BP is one of the partners in the Burrup Hub project in North Western Australia where they are accused of damaging ancient rock art thousands of years older than Stonehenge, so campaigners see their sponsorship of the British Museum as hypocritical. Watch our interview with Julie Macken for more info on the Burrup Peninsula.

On 22 February, the National Portrait Gallery and BP put out a joint press statement announcing the end of BP’s sponsorship of the National Portrait Awards. 

Solidarity with the university strike

The University and College Union (UCU) strike we mentioned last week is ongoing.

A key issue the union has called out is the “scourge of casualisation” at universities. It says:

Around 100,000 staff in the sector are on insecure, temporary contracts. Enough is enough. We need a nationally agreed framework to eliminate this precarity.

Across the UK, both staff and students have been showing solidarity with striking workers:

Some have even been calling for a national strike in solidarity.

The UCU states:

This wave of strike action will end on 2 March when we will walk out alongside students taking part in the NUS one day student strike for education.

It adds:

With the latest student data showing increased admissions and qualifications the union is now calling on university bosses to invest in staff, improve conditions and protect pensions to avoid further disruption.

Draconian injunction against UVW security guards strike at Great Ormond Street Hospital

In December, we covered the story of security guards at Great Ormond Street Hospital who were calling for parity with other NHS staff. The outsourced workers want to be brought in-house and receive sickness and holiday pay, like their fellow cleaners and nurses at the famous hospital. Facing an intransigent management, the 33 workers began a strike at the start of February, but the hospital reacted by allegedly spending £40,000 on lawyers injuncting strikers not to protest within 200 metres of the site.

180 academics raised their concerns in an open letter to the hospital, and last week the UVW union won a partial victory at the High Court when judges agreed to roll back the most draconian aspects of the order.

On Friday 25 February, there’ll be a rally at the newly stipulated 50-metre exclusion zone and supporters are invited to come and make some noise.

Other news

  • On Saturday 26 February, people across the country will demand extra funds for the NHS. The SOS NHS group insists: “Emergency funds must be secured now to avert disaster. We must repair crumbling hospitals; restore NHS beds, recruit, retain, train and properly pay health and care staff; rebuild un­derfunded public health and GP services struggling to respond effectively to Covid; publicly fund a service for care and inde­pendent living support; and much more.”
  • Indian Americans protested against a controversial ruling on religious headscarves in the Indian state of Karnataka. The demonstration against this ‘hijab ban’ took place on 20 February. This action mirrors several protests across US cities relating to the increasing Islamophobic sentiments across India. The growing hostility goes against the country’s constitution, which guarantees religious freedom.
  • The London Assembly recently voted against the UK government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, labelling it “racist” legislation as it would “make ethnic minorities into second class citizens“. The Citizenship Is A Right coalition, which was formed to oppose the bill, is organising a protest on Sunday 27 February at the Home Office.
  • Last December, we reported on IWGB support for foster carers in Glasgow who faced pay freezes leading to huge cuts in effective pay. On Friday 18 February, a huge victory was announced with an end to the freeze, extra child allowance and the beginning of union recognition.

That’s all for this week. But please let us know of any stories and issues you’d like to see more of, and remember to subscribe to our YouTube channel.