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‘Escalate strikes,’ say university workers on third day of walkout

The UCU union leadership must call more action to build on the success of the three-day strike over pensions, pay and inequalities
Issue 2784
Four UCU union members carry a banner that reads end the gender pay gap

University strikers on the march in central London (Picture: Socialist Worker)

Around 2,000 university workers marched through the streets of central London on Friday to mark the end of their three-day strike over pensions, pay and inequalities.

Students and college workers joined the protest to defend education, called by the UCU union’s London region. And the FBU firefighters’ union, the RMT transport workers’ union and the PCS union turned out with flags to show solidarity.

Many marchers called for their UCU union leadership to build on the success of the three-day walkout—and ramp up industrial action.

Peter, a learning technologist at Imperial College London, told Socialist Worker, “I’d like to see a month-long strike beginning in January, next term.”

He added UCU members wanted “all 100 universities out on strike”.

Around 50,000 UCU union members at 58 universities across Britain struck from Wednesday. Another 42 universities are voting on joining the strikes, with the ballot beginning on Monday and closing on 14 January. They are reballoting after missing the 50 percent turnout threshold in the Tory anti-union laws.

The march was led by a banner reading, “End the gender pay gap,” and protesters chanted, “They say cut back, we say fight back.”

FE college teacher and UCU member Jess told Socialist Worker, “Any fight for education must be supported by every teacher, staff member and the public. It affects all of us.

“Big protests, like this one, give us confidence that we aren’t alone—pension cuts and the gender pay gap are happening across the board.

“From nursery to universities, it has all suffered from austerity and Tory policies. When there’s the next protest or strike, we need to build them bigger and get senior management and Boris Johnson to listen.”

Roddy, a UCU member at Imperial College London, told Socialist Worker, “After the strike we need to use the opportunity to help the 42 reballots. And we need to build solidarity with Goldsmiths workers.”

UCU members at Goldsmiths University in south London launched a 15-day strike on 23 November against 52 jobs cuts. Management are pushing through the restructure at the behest of Lloyds and NatWest banks.

Goldsmiths workers led chants against the commercialisation of education at the protest. 

Roddy added, “Goldsmiths represents one way education is heading and we don’t want that—we need to kick banks out of education. Employers need to know that we won’t stop. They sold us short after the 2019 strike, then we were stopped by the pandemic, now we’re back.”

“In the New Year, we need a serious and large scale fight and to escalate to indefinite action.”

There were also rallies and demonstrations in Leeds, Manchester, Brighton and other cities and towns.

UCU union members have shown they’re determined to keep up the fight during the last three days. They went further than UCU general secretary Jo Grady, who had proposed that workers only launch more limited action before Christmas.

Every trade unionist and campaigner should build solidarity with the university workers’ fight.


SWP UCU members are hosting a special Zoom call discussing Neoliberalism and precarity: do workers still have power? Tues 7 December at 7pm. Details here

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