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Demonstration assembles on Malet Street, London. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Demonstration assembles on Malet Street, London. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

On the 5th day of the UCU strike, picket lines stayed strong despite the weather and students came out in force to show their support

In London, students, lecturers, trade unionists and supporters assembled on Malet Street at midday and then marched to Westminster in defence of university staff pensions and against further marketisation of higher education. Groups from Goldsmiths, Kings College and LSE joined the march along the way and by the time they got to the closing rally in Central Hall there was a good couple thousand people there.

Assembling at Malet Street

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Dogs against university fat cats

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Outside Centrall Hall, Westminster (after the hall was already filled with people)

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Newcastle weren't deterred by the (far heavier than London) snow either

Another day of 80 plus pickets. Teach outs on art including an academic from Iceland who canceled her University talk in solidarity and gave us the talk instead.  

We held a union meeting after the teach outs, again about 80 there where a motion was passed calling for continuation of the strike during negotiations and an assessment boycott to be implemented if talks fail.

Next week we are having themed days, Monday mass danceathon! Tuesday bring your children and their home made placards day, Wednesday solidarity with the NHS day involving local health campaigns, Thursday International Women's Day.

Justice for Cleaners solidarity rally at Kings College

KCL UCU, KCL UNISON & the KCL Justice for Cleaners Campaign held a Solidarity rally at Strand yesterday, including speakers from both disputes. It's one of the most inspirational events I've been to in a long while - it felt like a real turning point in something. The USS scam, the wretchedness of staff out-sourcing, all the issues raised around social justice, agency, and basic human dignity by the corporatisation of a sector that should be a key underpinning of society's defence against such attacks, were made clearly and simply visible. That we are under the same attacks and united in our resistance was plain for all to see. And a mention of Yarl's Wood at the end - because we all stopped being human to them long ago (if we ever were) and the need to fight our corner and come out in defence of those in the most vulnerable positions has never been greater. Fight them on every front. Fight together.

In Bristol, the university branch of Unison passed a resolution in support of the UCU strike

Jack Hazeldine who submitted an adapted version of this resolution, spoke to it by saying:

The key things about this motion to me are...

- solidarity
- we are one workforce and we are one university community
- there is a general willingness amongst a majority of students and staff to oppose attacks on staff conditions and benefits and to oppose further marketisation in higher education

The solidarity we can bring to the UCU strike will be recognised and remembered... A collection for hardship fund, our banner on the picket...

And simply going down to the picket to say hello, say I'm a Unison member and I support you.

It won't just be remembered by those on strike but also by the majority of students who support the strike.

Most of us have a different pension scheme and largely varying conditions from our UCU colleagues.

But we are facing many similar problems - challenges to pension schemes, but most consistently the year on year real terms pay cuts.

We may wish to take action on these things in the future and we may wish to call in the solidarity of others too.

But even so, I don't believe this is just about a trade-off.

It's become more obvious than ever that there is serious underinvestment and undervaluing of staff in HE, whilst there is generous expenditure on other aspects of the university such as buildings and presentation.

As well as a continuing financialisation and marketisation of HE which is what the proposed pension changes represent - a transfer of wealth away from workers to other interests and financial risk being put increasingly on workers.

UUK have been endeavouring to divide students from staff on this question of pensions and the strike.

But what we've seen on the huge picket lines and rallies in Bristol and elsewhere in the last week is a great willingness amongst a great portion of staff and students to oppose this further marketisation and struggle to defend staff conditions and benefit.

Let's be clear that the government are absolutely in support of these changes, and the cuts to funding for universities and its role in increasing fees and privatisation in the sector testify to this.

So this is about a stand against neoliberal and austerity policies too which are damaging the sector.

Finally...

Speaking about solidarity, there was some incredible news last night that a Bristol Student Union motion in solidarity with the UCU strike and all future ones was passed in the Student Council with well over 300 voting for, and only 10 against...  and with a donation of £350!

The UCU strike ballot saw a massive vote with 60% turnout and well over 80% in favour of strike action - it appears the the government's anti-Trade union measures of increased thresholds are backfiring. This, and the turnouts of thousands on the pickets, should give us confidence to take future actions ourselves.

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