Counterfire reports on the third day of UCU strikes from university picket lines around the country
University of Liverpool and Liverpool Hope University rally – Michael Lavalette
Three days of UCU strike action were brought to an end on Friday with a well attended rally in Liverpool.
Strikers from the University of Liverpool and Liverpool Hope University were joined by students and supporters from a range of campaigning groups and other unions to demand that university bosses act to avert the USS pension crisis and deal with the unions Four Fights claim.
The rally was addressed by local strikers, representatives from NEU, Merseyside Stop the War, Merseyside Pensioners Association, Liverpool Black Lives Matter, and Liverpool Students Union.
Strike action is likely to restart in the new year. It’s vital that UCU has a clear strategy to win. Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) begins on Monday, with union members working to contract. This needs to be used extensively to keep the campaign momentum up.
There is no doubt the Tories anti-union laws are putting huge hurdles in place to prevent strike action. Some Universities, which have not been on strike, will be re-balloted in January. It is vital that all stops are pulled out to get big yes votes in these institutions.
But it seems UCU will not be re-balloting all universities who failed to reach the required 50% turn out in November’s ballot. There are no signs that employers are going to cave in, so the strike action needs to involve the largest numbers of workers across the sector in concerted action – and no section of the union should be marginalised in this campaign.
University of Kent – Claire Hurley, Kent UCU President
At the University of Kent, the strikes have been creative and disruptive. We held our first online accessible picket lines and had a student organised march and rally with speakers showing support to striking lecturers and support staff from the Kent students union, student newspaper and Democratise UKC movement. Uniting with students has been a key aim for the local union branch in trying to reclaim the University after a disastrous restructuring last year.
London UCU rally and march – Shabbir Lakha
UCU members and students from around London converged in Tavistock Square for a spirited rally on the last day of the strike. There were numerous banners from different UCU branches who joined the rally in delegations. The crowd of several hundred was addressed by UCU General Secretary Jo Grady alongside John McDonnell MP, RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch, Michael Rosen and others.
The message from the rally was clear: the fight is only just beginning. From Monday, UCU members at the 58 institutions will begin action short of strike, while the union re-ballots a number of universities that were just short of the threshold for strike action. There was a clear sense that more strike action in the new year is both likely and necessary in order to beat back the concerted attacks from university managements.
University of Leeds – Simon Hewitt
Picket lines at Leeds have been well-supported by both staff and students. They are lively in feel, featuring music and a ‘running picket’. There has also been a good amount of online activity, including a solidarity Padlet and virtual rallies, featuring contributions from John McDonnell and Richard Burgon.
University of Glasgow – Sophie Johnson
Overall student support for the UCU strike at Glasgow University has been extremely positive and the decision by the student representative society to state their support last month was welcomed by the student body. Of some 200 people at the picket line on Wednesday morning, around a quarter of those were students and a student presence was felt consistently over the three days.
On the first day, a spirited speech from a student from the Marxist Society was greeted by cheers and support from various student societies such as the GU Arms Divestment Coalition, whose call for management to sign the New Green Deal which ensures fair treatment and pay of teaching staff, was presented on a bold banner.
There were also many students unaffiliated with societies or political organisations on the picket lines holding a range of homemade signs such as “Solidarity with our Amazing Staff” and “We support our teachers”. One sign held by a postdoc researcher read “They’ve turned the weans against us” a quote from a Glaswegian sketch show and a parody of the completely false narrative that students do not support the strike action. Only a quick glance at the picket line on Wednesday morning provided plenty of evidence to dispel that myth.
Open University and University of Bristol – Susan Newman
Before you go…we need your help
Counterfire is expanding fast as a website and an organisation. We are trying to organise a dynamic extra-parliamentary left in every part of the country to help build resistance to the government and their billionaire backers. If you like what you have read and you want to help, please join us or just get in touch by emailing [email protected] Now is the time!