By Sadie Robinson
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UCU union calls another 14 days of university strikes as action bites

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Issue 2595
A demonstration for UCU strikers and International Womens Day saw 600 take part in Sheffield
A demonstration for UCU strikers and International Women’s Day saw 600 take part in Sheffield (Pic: Craig Brandist)

The UCU union has sanctioned a further 14 days of strikes across 65 universities if bosses refuse to back down from attacking workers’ pensions.

The news comes as UCU members in over 60 universities finished a four-day walkout on Thursday and are set to strike for five days next week.

Julie Hearn is on the UCU’s higher education committee (HEC) and branch chair of the UCU at Lancaster university. “I’m very excited because this will send such a strong signal to the employers,” she told Socialist Worker.

“It shows that we are serious about defending our defined benefit pension scheme.”

On the picket line at Queen Mary university
On the picket line at Queen Mary university (Pic: Guy Smallman)

She said strikers would “unequivocally” back the new strikes. “It’s helping people to see that their action and standing out picketing in the cold for hours is having an effect. Their strikes are moving this struggle forward.”

Josh is a UCU rep at University College London. “This is the correct approach,” he told Socialist Worker. “We’ve got to show the bosses that we’re willing to escalate to win.

“The mood on the picket lines has been brilliant – a union transformed. If the union didn’t take this stance it would be a disservice to thousands of new members.”

On the picket line in Newcastle today
On the picket line in Newcastle on Thursday (Pic: Geoff Abbott)

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt told members that the 14 fresh strikes would take place during exams “if no acceptable agreement is reached”.

“These strikes, if they are needed, would be staged in such a way as to maximise disruption to the forthcoming exams and assessment period,” she said.

A teach-out at Kings College in London

A teach-out at King’s College in London (Pic: Socialist Worker)

The news comes after a week of huge pickets, protests, occupations and teach outs across Britain. Many strikers said this week saw the biggest picket lines of the entire dispute so far, which began last month.

Leicester university striker Paula told Socialist Worker, “We’ve had a great turnout on the picket lines, especially on behalf of students. It’s been quite heartening.”

King’s College London striker Lucy added, “The pickets are much, much bigger than previous strikes. And there’s a broader range of people picketing.

“There’s such a strength of feeling and willingness among people to take action. I would support more strikes after Easter.”

Ruskin College striker Des agreed. “People would support more strikes without question. This is a fight for education.”

Edinburgh university striker Talat said, “The mood here has been excellent, really superb. We have to up the ante to win. We’ve got them on the run, let’s keep them on the run.”

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