By Sophie Squire
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Support strikes at universities across Britain

Issue 2783
Strikers marching with placards while on strike

Striking university workers marching in 2018 (Credit: Guy Smallman)

Thousands of university workers will head to picket lines this week to fight for their pensions, pay, and against inequalities. 

Workers in 58 universities across Britain were set to strike on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Trade unionists and campaigners everywhere should back the strikes, go to picket lines and make the action a focus against the Tories.

Other institutions, who just missed the turnout threshold demanded by the anti-union laws, are reballoting and could  join the action in the new year. 

Workers in the UCU union, are striking as part of two separate but connected disputes. 

The first is to stop bosses’ body UUK assaulting pensions. The second dispute is over equal pay, casual contracts, workload and a real term pay rise—the “four fights”.

Carlo Morelli is the former president of UCU Scotland. He told Socialist Worker, “In the 2018 strikes, which ­transformed the union, the driver was the pensions issue that opened up all the ­feelings of resentment. This time it is workloads, the way the pandemic has been handled, discrimination and pay—the four fights.

“That shouldn’t mean any retreat from the pension fight. It does mean people are very angry if there’s an attempt to ditch the four fights or decouple those issues from pensions.” Carlo added, “People are furious about management.” He said the UCU WhatsApp group at Dundee university where he works “lit up” when the strikes were announced.

“People had all their plans for teach outs, a playlist for the pickets and loads more ready immediately.” 

Students have also been preparing to support the strikes. Sky, a student at Liverpool university, said activity “is heating up” in Liverpool ahead of the strikes. 

“We’ve had a meeting arguing for our student union to support the strikes,” she added. “And we’re warning them that management is applying a lot of pressure to staff at the moment.

“We’ve printed out posters to create an atmosphere of solidarity. 

“Of course we’ll also be going down to the picket line with a banner we’re making.” 

There was also confusion this week after activists received an email from the heads of the union about Action Short of a Strike (Asos). 

Members voted for Asos in the belief that it would include no rescheduling of classes cancelled due to strikes. 

But the notification to employers did not include this very basic demand. Activists are fighting to overturn the initial retreat on Asos. 

But the key is to build big strikes and then escalate.

“People don’t want to delay, they want confrontation,” Carlo explained. “And there is a really good chance here to win escalation.”

This confusion comes after UCU general secretary Jo Grady disastrously ­proposed that workers take just one day of strikes before Christmas.  

UCU members know that much bolder action is needed to win. 

For a list of who is on strike go to bit.ly/SW1221UCU

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