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March against cuts to USS in Bristol, 12th March 2018. Photo: Jack Hazeldine

March against cuts to USS in Bristol, 12th March 2018. Photo: Jack Hazeldine

As the lecturers' stike enters its final week, a lecturer explains what we have achieved and what we still need to do

The strikes have been absolutely brilliant. We have seen more than 3,000 new people become members of the union and strengthen the ranks at a local and national level. These have been engaged in sustained activism in our local strike committees, on the picket lines, online and in their communities over the last three weeks.

First and foremost, we are defending our pensions. As educators though we understand our struggle’s wider significance for public services and education. That is why the students have been so supportive of our strike and have supported us through petitioning, occupying buildings and helping out at the picket lines.

As our strike coincided with International Women’s Day, we have been able to highlight the struggle for equal pay and against sexual harassment in the workplace. Regardless of the outcome of this dispute, there remains a lot of work to be done to ensure equality and justice for all genders in our universities.

Internationally, we have witnessed links being established with other workers such as the West Virginian teachers’ strike which won a 5 per cent pay rise for all public sector employees, underlining that we are part of a global movement

As our movement has grown we have seen different employers come in behind our demands. However, it has also exposed that the majority of Vice-Chancellors want to push ahead with the plans. As UUK cannot come to a unified position, they hope to ride this out over time and hope that we’ll lose steam, students’ support and most of all will remain isolated in the wider labour movement. As we’re going into our final week of strike action today, here are some suggestions which can help to keep up momentum:

1Ring every colleague you know to come to the picket lines  and boost the picket lines this last week. Ring those colleagues who haven’t been on strike and convince them this is the final chance we’ve got.

2Build solidarity across the labour movement – We have had the local NEU branch come down to our picket lines. This helps us to show that this is not only about pensions but about education. Contact the local NEU (formerly NUT/ATL/NASUWT) and other local unions and get them down to the picket lines on one day during the next week. Is there a UNITE Community branch in your area? These links will be indispensable if this dispute is prolonged.  

3Build on the political front – Get in touch with your local Labour Party and get them to come down to the picket line and send solidarity - Contact your local MP to support our demands and support the petition to make UUK subject to the Freedom of Information Act (more than 10,000 signatures so far- Can we get more than 100,000 by the end of the week?)

4Show that the students support us – Loughborough UCU took pictures with students holding up signs reading “We support the strikes because….x,y,z”. We are winning the PR war, let’s win the battle. If you have good links with your students’ union and/or student body, this is the week to call a local/campus-wide demonstration to put pressure on your Vice-Chancellor.

All these tasks require some time and energy and most of us have been doing a lot for the last 3 weeks and even before that. Make sure to divide up the work into manageable tasks amongst as many members and non-members as possible. Don’t assume that just because someone hasn’t done anything so far, that they won’t be willing to do something this week.

We’ve come this far. Together we can win this!

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