Supporting the UCU strikes

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Mar 9 2011 11:19
Supporting the UCU strikes

What are people planning on doing? I've been arguing for people to focus on building mass pickets and using direct action to make sure the strikes are effective but haven't done a huge lot more. What else is there that could work? We're thinking of producing a leaflet encouraging other workers to take solidarity action but that could be a bit ambitious. Has anyone got anything encouraging non-UCU workers not to cross picket lines as that would be helpful.

Django's picture
Joined: 18-01-08
Mar 9 2011 11:30

Could you post up some details of the strikes? This is the first I've heard of them.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 9 2011 11:34

I may be overly cynical, but the experience at Sussex makes me think the strikes are lost before they begin. Here, UCU always accepted cuts and put on a spectacle of resistance via one-day strikes which boosted their membership and activity whilst giving management everything they wanted.

Support staff we were involved with put out leaflets calling for staff not to cross picket lines, and loads of students joined the picket (despite a Tankie fuck barking orders at me - and worse - non-UCU staff who were wildcatting - for standing in a line, and thus threatening the union with action for 'secondary picketing', which was bollocks on at least two counts). But there was never a plan to strike to win, imho.

That doesn't mean we can't support them, but it's hard to see what you can do apart from going along and/or working with non-UCU staff to not cross picket lines.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 9 2011 11:46
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Saying that we are active around the uni with the most militant UCU branch in the country, I just don't think you should let things that have happened pre-Millbank in one place colour your view too much on what is happening everywhere else.

i'm aware i'm pretty cynical, but there's a strong, left-wing UCU here too. maybe post-Millbank changes things, but i can count official union disputes that have achieved their stated aims from the past five years on the fingers of one hand (i can only think of the bin workers in various places). of course you could argue that makes it more important to be involved, and for students to be arguing for a direct action escalation strategy, which students can help in (but not substitute for). I guess occupation of management buildings during a strike would fuck with them and increase the pressure.

Joined: 3-12-07
Mar 9 2011 12:11

An effective strike by lecturers? That always reminds of the philosphers' strike in Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy. Well, when we had two one-day strikes at Sussex uni last year, management didn't give a fuck, education is the last thing they care about. Industrial muscle only becomes apparent when UCU members boycott exams and exam boards, that messes up the university's ability to deliver the product, i.e. pieces of paper giving acces to the labour market aka degrees.

However, I think these strikes can become a nucleation event causing the crystallisation of anger, so agree with JC that we should push for extension to other groups of education workers and students.

Between Your Teeth's picture
Between Your Teeth
Joined: 24-12-08
Mar 9 2011 13:07

Nottingham AF have a fairly large number of members (well, in libertarian communist terms. about six I reckon) based at the two universities locally so hopefully some stuff should be happening. the two universities (and some sixth form colleges) are linked via the student anti cuts groups so some action can probably be co-ordinated.

After the nottingham university occupation died down a sort of joint student/support worker/ lecturers forum was set up. Unfortunately more and more UCU business has been sneaked onto the agenda with the result that over time it's essentially become an adjunct to the local branch. To the point where the branch are now trying to devolve the entire arrangements for the strike to the group. nice.

other than the normal strike support stuff, other things that have been discussed with an intention to carry out include:

putting together a 2 sided leaflet to distribute locally. Lecturers doing one side / students another.

to picket student open days with a view to dissuading new students from joining the uni. dates here:

lot of research projects for business/government at year end because of budgetary reasons that may well over run possibly resulting in forfeited payments to the uni. so there's some leverage there and hopefully people will be encouraged to try and make this happen.

but yeah, people are aware that if lecturers strike then they just have rearrange their lessons and do them another time. the work still gets done. this is probably reflected in the fairly dismal turn out.

Ellar's picture
Joined: 1-11-09
Mar 9 2011 13:27

Royal Holloway anti-cuts group is going to be leafleting in support of the strikes and explaining to students that if they do strike it probably won't have a extreme negative effect on students, because theres allot of disinformation going round about how disruptive a strike would be for students.

We are also putting together a poster and facebook campaign of student support for the strike action, theres also going to be a joint meeting between the union and some delegates from the anti-cuts group. If they do strike then the group agreed that we will support them all the way including joining picket lines and so on. But thats if anything does happen, which seems unlikely at the moment, vote will probably be used as a bargaining tool rather than actually taking action.

Ellar's picture
Joined: 1-11-09
Mar 9 2011 13:28

But everybodys pretty busy because we wan't to have a week of direct action in the run up to the 26th.

Caiman del Barrio
Joined: 28-09-04
Mar 20 2011 12:29

Unison tells its members to cross picket lines:

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: "" <>
Subject: News from UNISON in Higher Education Industrial Action by UCU:
Universities Superannuation Scheme

Please find clarification about the dates for industrial action.
The Industrial Action takes place in England on the 22nd March and in the
North of Ireland on the 21st March (we were told the wrong date by UCU!) See
also details of m ore free health and well being workshops being held

Industrial Action by UCU: Universities Superannuation Scheme

The University and College Union (UCU) have balloted members for industrial
action in respect of changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme. They are
proposing to take strike action in 63 universities. These are predominantly the
pre-1992 universities. A full list of universities likely to be affected is
available on the UCU website.

UCU have reported that they are planning strike action on the following dates:

Thursday 17 March Scotland
Friday 18 March Wales
Monday 21 Northern Ireland
Monday 22 March England
Thursday 24 March UK Day of Action

As you may be aware, UNISON is not party to the negotiations over changes to USS
and as negotiations have not technically concluded we are yet to see the final
proposals on changes to the scheme. As soon as these details are received we
will be consulting with branches on the UNISON response to these changes.


UNISON respects the rights of other trade unions to take industrial action.
UNISON members in universities have not been balloted and therefore they are advised to continue with their normal duties and responsibilities. UNISON
members should not take on any additional responsibilities being given to them directly as a result of the UCU industrial action.

Members are reminded that due to industrial relations legislation only those
employees who have been involved in a legal ballot are allowed to take
industrial action. However, members may wish to show support for their UCU
colleagues by attending meetings/rallies outside working hours.

If members are instructed by their manager to undertake additional duties they
should contact their branch or regional office for further advice.

Official Picket Lines

Refusal to cross an official picket line could render members of staff liable to
disciplinary action including deduction of salary. The exception to this is
where there are genuine grounds to believe that crossing the picket line could
put the person concerned at risk of injury. Members are advised that when
crossing a picket line they should assure the UCU members that they will not
undertake any work normally done by those on strike.


If the university decides to close the premises and staff are unable to
undertake their duties, UNISON members should not suffer any deduction of pay or be expected to work additional hours to make up the time.

Both my parents work in an FE college and one's a UCU member yet neither had heard anything of this until I mentioned it to them.

Steven.'s picture
Joined: 27-06-06
Mar 20 2011 12:47

I would say that sort of disclaimer is pretty standard in any workplace where one union is set to take action and another is not.

Caiman del Barrio
Joined: 28-09-04
Mar 20 2011 13:08
Steven. wrote:
I would say that sort of disclaimer is pretty standard in any workplace where one union is set to take action and another is not.

Obviously still worth publicising though, especially bearing in mind the illusions that many newly radicalised uni workers have in The Unions.

Joined: 18-07-09
Mar 20 2011 15:35

UCU is on strike at Tower Hamlets College on Thursday 24th and we are quite excited about it, partly because it gives us a chance to meet each other and plan and scheme (this can be a valuable use of a one-day strike), which our management have made so difficult these days, and also because it happens to be a national Day of Action for ESOL.

In addition to some of us going along to the national ESOL demo at Old Palace Yard, Houses of Parliament from 11:30-1 which should be pretty interesting, we will have our own lively picketline/protes/party in the garden opposite the Arbour Square site (London E1 0PT). Loads of other ESOL and other students will be there with food, music, puppets, street theatre, banner making, bike maintenance workshops, etc.

Everyone welcome at the picket line from 7:30am. Also pickets at the Poplar High St site.

BTW we have just had a lot of compulsories among our non-teaching staff. Teachers next. It's a shame Unison once again didn't sort out their ballot in time for a strike, because UCU members had made it clear we wouldn't cross a Unison picket line (against nat'l Union policy of course) but there wasn't the strength for them to go for anything unofficial.

Auto's picture
Joined: 12-04-09
Mar 21 2011 21:49
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
UCL have occupied in solidarity with the strikes.

And Goldsmiths students have just occupied Deptford Town Hall in solidarity as well.

Deptford's becoming a right hotbed of radicalism, these days. ;)

thegonzokid's picture
Joined: 23-07-09
Mar 26 2011 22:43

Report from Liverpool here.

Joined: 6-01-07
Mar 29 2011 16:07

A few of us involved in the 'Manchester Class Struggle Forum' went along to the scattered picket lines at Manchester University and MMU on the Tuesday and Thursday and to the two lunchtime local rallies where we distributed the leaflet posted on our blog here.

It appears that the staff strike was fairly well supported but active solidarity from students limited to only a small minority and only the usual token solidarity by the display of the UNISON banner held aloft by the usual lefties at the rallies.

One or two fighting speaches but a good deal more whinging about how the UCU had offered lots of compromises but been kicked in the balls by 'unreasonable' management etc.

Some 'Socialist Party' and 'SWP' leaflets given out but no other anarchist or communist stuff as far as I am aware.

I'm not aware of any further action planned at present?

Alf's picture
Joined: 6-07-05
Mar 29 2011 19:50

This is a first for the Manchester class struggle forum - producing a leaflet and distributing it during a strike. A very good initiative.