A noisy crowd of striking workers and students lobbied Universities UK (UUK) today in central London. Talks were taking place between the bosses’ UUK and the UCU union, who are in dispute over attacks on workers’ pensions.
Today is the fourth day of strikes against a plan to turn workers’ defined benefit scheme to a defined contribution one. And the action is getting stronger.
Roddy, a UCU rep at Imperial College London, told Socialist Worker, “We’ve had a 22 percent rise in our membership in seven weeks.
“Today we extended pickets to another two buildings, one of which has never been picketed before.
“We’ve had people join the union on the picket line on every day of the strike.”
One Imperial striker told Socialist Worker she joined the union the day before the strikes began. “I just wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “I didn’t want to cross the picket line.
“It feels like more and more people are getting involved every day.”
UUK had already ruled out negotiating on the pensions attack that sparked the strike. But the action remains solid.
Marion, a UCU rep at Goldsmiths College, said over 250 people had joined picket lines. Darren from Queen Mary said the turnout there has been “amazing”. “It’s the biggest action in our history,” he added. “And young people are joining the movement and are on the picket lines.”
Strikers elsewhere report similar experiences. Over 120 pickets rallied at Leeds university. Striker Lesley said there was an “elated atmosphere”.
Warwick university has seen solid pickets of over 100 workers and many students every day.
Yiannis reported, “Matt Western Labour MP visited last week and Jim Cunningham visited this week. Warwick Free University is growing and there are events planned for the whole planned duration of the strike.”
He added that UCU members and students had protested outside the Unitemps office at the university on Monday. Unitemps is a university-owned employment agency.
Yiannis explained, “A leaked email from Unitemps Salford revealed that Unitemps was offering to replace striking workers with its own agency staff.”
The email said that Unitemps had “a large pool of reliable students/graduates who would be happy to cover any work necessary”.
The Warwick Anti-Casualisation group said, “Hiring agency workers during strike action to replace striking staff is illegal.”
Yiannis said protesters “demanded that Unitemps provides full and transparent information on whether other branches have offered to do the same”.
At the University of Nottingham, strikers planned to hold a protest on campus on Wednesday. Sheffield university strikers also plan a demonstration.
An angry rally at Edinburgh university on Monday booed the principal and his £342,000 salary. The rally had been organised by Edinburgh Students in Solidarity with UCU.
Monday was the first day of strikes for workers there, as it was for those at King’s College, Queen Mary and Stirling.
Next week, three more universities are set to join the action—Ruskin College, the University of Bradford and St George’s, University of London. That means 64 universities will begin a four-day strike from Monday.
At University College London, a group of students began an occupation yesterday evening.
Student occupier Mataio told Socialist Worker, “We set up camp outside the Provost’s office and when he tried to get in, we wouldn’t let him. We slept there through the night and are still there now. Not only do we wish to act in solidarity with UCU workers, but we also wish to make a point about the way neoliberal attacks on education affect students.”
He added that most occupiers plan to leave tomorrow to join the UCU strike protest in central London from 12 noon.