Socialist Worker

'We can win this dispute' - university workers show mood for a fight

Issue No. 2388

On the picket at the University of Portsmouth

On the picket at the University of Portsmouth (Pic: Jon Woods)


UCU union members in universities across Britain took part in a second two-hour strike over pay yesterday, Tuesday. It followed a successful two-hour strike on Thursday of last week. The action saw big picket lines and a clear mood among strikers that the union should escalate to harder hitting action.

Over 100 pickets at University College London joined with up to 60 from London’s Institute of Education to lobby the university bosses. Elsewhere in London there were around 30 pickets at King’s College London, 50 at the School of Oriental and African Studies and 40 at Southbank University.

Kingston University student Alistair Farrow told Socialist Worker, “A teach-out was organised to attract people who hadn’t heard of the strike. Around 50 students and workers came. Subjects ranged from the Haymarket riots in New York to the state of education in Britain.

“There was anger at the union’s strategy of two-hour strikes. People think they are inadequate to challenge the attack on pay.”

At Strathclyde university in Glasgow, lecturers were angry at the principal getting an above-inflation rise while workers face a measly 1 percent deal and redundancies.

Barry Pavier reported that the mood at Bradford university was “upbeat”. “People are looking forward to the next action,” he added. 

There were pickets at every site at Leicester university.

Escalation

In Leeds around 50 strikers picketed at Leeds university and 60 at Leeds Metropolitan University. Strikers held a joint union meeting and voted by over 80 percent for escalation of the strikes.

Many workers want union leaders to recommit to a programme of escalating strikes, rather than de-escalate the dispute with two-hour walkouts.

Steve Lax, a UCU member at Leeds university, told Socialist Worker, “The discussion highlighted a widespread frustration at the de-escalation of the action. All felt this was a dispute we could win. But although the two-hour strikes have been successful, no one thought this action on its own would win the dispute.”

Saira Weiner, a lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, described a “mood of despair” about the two-hour strikes.

Jon Woods reported a “great turnout” for picket lines at the University of Portsmouth. He added that there was a “very positive mood about a full day’s strike with other unions on 6 February”. This strike will involve UCU, Unison, Unite and EIS union members in higher education.

Pickets also discussed the possibility of escalating a planned two-hour strike for UCU members on 10 February to a full day’s walkout.

Some university bosses have said they will deduct a whole day’s pay from workers for the two-hour strikes. This has angered many strikers and strengthened the demand for escalation.

Bosses at the University of South Wales have backed down on their threat to deduct a whole day’s pay for the action. In a letter to staff they said the change followed “an approach from UCU” and confirmed that “we will withhold 2 hours pay not a full day’s pay”.

The success of the action shows the potential to win. Workers should pile the pressure on union leaders to escalate the fight now.


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