After a huge mobilisation to support striking lecturers on the first day of the strike, Bristolians took to the streets again to show solidarity reports Jack Hazeldine
“Hugh Brady shame on you, we deserve our pensions too!” rang out some of the most militant chants on another major strike day at Bristol University, targeting the well-remunerated Vice Chancellor who has maxed out his own pension pot yet refuses to get fully behind staff demands for UUK to drop the proposed changes.
Once again hundreds of staff showed out from 8am on pickets lining the three main intersecting roads on Bristol Uni’s makeshift campus, where they were joined by sound systems, hot tea trailers and guitars brought along by students and others.
But the action began to escalate as up to 1,000 turned out in a repeat of last Thursday’s events, to rally at 10.30am outside the main ‘Senate House’ university building on the pickets and then march down right into the centre of town.
This time the atmosphere was almost carnivalesque, rowdier, more determined and more defiant, with students banging pots and pans, giant placards targeting university management hypocrisy over funds, and chants of “They say cut back, we say strike back!”
Taking it up a notch further even, union branch stewards and students organised a lunchtime protest on the main road outside the meeting of the Senate – the university’s main academic decision-making body – where the Vice-Chancellor was presiding.
The plan came off brilliantly, as the huge noise from pot banging, sound systems, loud songs and speeches was sure to echo through the meeting inside. Pavements were crammed and cars tooted. Later, students even flooded into the Wills Building and occupied the lobby space near the meeting room, making a colossal, jubilant noise.
This closing lunchtime rally featured a speech from UCU’s chief national negotiator Paul Bridge, who drew links to pay concerns, told staff to expect a hard and potentially long fight, and said the union drew a red line at the imposition of a “defined contributions”, more marketized scheme.
He was followed by a speaker from Bristol People’s Assembly, who drew links to resisting the wider austerity and neoliberal agenda enforced by a government on the brink, a UCU member from nearby UWE Uni speaking passionately in solidarity, and a student who called on all to unite and fight to win the dispute and more victories in Higher Education. Further mass public action in Bristol is expected next Wednesday on International Women’s Day over the university’s gender pay gap.
Jack Hazeldine is an organiser in the People's Assembly and Stop the War.
Based in Bristol, he has coordinated the largest demonstrations and public meetings in the city in recent years: against austerity, in support of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of Labour, over the Junior Doctors' struggle and against the British bombing of Syria. He is currently travelling between the UK and Catalonia, building the solidarity campaign and corresponding on events.
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