The third day of national strike action saw UCU turn out in strength both on the Warwick picket line and at the mass rally in London. Strong showings from English despite the cold weather, a third successful #bikesforstrikes rally and a great teach out from Warwick Pride. And it was someone’s birthday.
Staff from English deploy Dickens to highlight UUK miserliness
In stark contrast with the university administration, student support has been heartwarming throughout these three days of action. The Warwick Pride Society stepped up with two powerful talks to remind us why the struggles against inequality in higher ed are intrinsically linked to struggles for emancipation among oppressed minorities, including LGBTQ+ communities, everywhere.
Again, the weather gods were kind to participants in the #bikesforstrikes rally around campus:
And we celebrated a cherished comrade’s birthday – our deputy Vice-Chair Gavin is still unsure how he feels about turning 23:
Meanwhile in central London, UCU crowds made an excellent showing while being addressed by some veterans in labour organising:
And Warwick members carried their research with them:
An excellent turnout for the group photo closed out this phase of industrial action. It’s now up to university administrators to make sure this very challenging year for all of us, staff and students alike, does not extend into a prolonged winter of discontent. Happy holidays, everyone!
Brilliant sunshine for today’s picket, which saw visits from striking CWU workers, MP for Coventry South Zarah Sultana and journalist-researcher and chair of Coventry Green New Deal David Ridley. Also: more intensely relaxed cycling around campus, and an engaged and engaging talk on bell hooks’s radical pedagogy. And let’s not forget about the vegetarian chilli.
Posties support uni workers, uni workers support posties
Zarah Sultana with a message for management
David Ridley (author of No Consolation: Radical Politics in Terrifying Times) gave an insightful talk connecting the higher education crisis with the climate crisis. He asked us three questions: (1) How can universities like Warwick put the green transition at the heart of what they do? (2) How can universities link up with other educational institutions (primary, secondary, FE) in this effort? (3) How can UCU connect with other unions and NGOs, nationally and internationally?
This food for thought was joined by literal nourishment from Professional Services Branch Secretary Caroline Proctor, and very welcome it was; never say the union doesn’t feed you, in every sense.
History PhD student Sue Lemos gave a stirring talk on the legacy of Black feminist and social activist bell hooks, with special attention to hooks’s concept of engaged pedagogy centred on love.
The #bikesforstrikes (or #pedalsforpensions) action continues to add an essential element of motion to the usually stationary activity of picketing.
And chatting with fellow picketers, along with the occasional breakout boogie, continues to enliven our time on the line.
Don’t miss the final day of action on Wednesday 30 December, when there’s more dancing in the offing. See you next week!
Week 3 of our action began with cold temps but welcome sun. We were joined by comrades from Coventry TUC, bringing both moral and material support:
Continuing the tradition of teach-outs on the picket line, Rebecca Brown (outgoing SU Environment and Ethics Officer) chaired a panel titled “Decolonisation/Decarbonisation,” on the necessary links between social and climate justice action. Featuring speakers that included newly elected SU officers and Coventry MP Zarah Sultana, the session drove home the need to attend to climate breakdown in both global and local terms.
Naomi Waltham-Smith then gave a rousing talk on the role of listening in political education:
We might think of activities like these as aspects of the shadow university – not the university represented in official brochures and PR, but the university that comes into being through the expertise, dedication and commitment of those participating in this strike to improve working conditions for all of us.
Thanks, as ever, to student and staff stalwarts on the line:
As we continue with the week’s picket schedule, remember that with this action we are holding the line against immensely destructive practices imposed by HE officials across the country. Let’s continue to show them whose university this really is.
A gusty day 2, but without the rain, saw visitors arriving at the picket line from the wind’s four quarters – local MPs, postal workers, UNITE and writers from Boston (Boston, USA, that is).
Zarah Sultana, recently elected MP for Coventry South, spoke of the need to continue standing up for workers’ rights in the current challenging environment.
Annette Ash from Warwick Estates and UNITE lent cross-union support, while representatives of the Communications Workers Union expressed solidarity from the midst of their own ongoing struggle with Royal Mail – which, like UCU’s, involves not just pay but the overall direction of the company, failure to uphold national agreements and the culture of the workplace.
And picketers gathered by the purple tent to hear Boston-based Nicole Aschoff, writer for Jacobin magazine and author of forthcoming book The Smartphone Society, lead a bracing teachout on changes in the political environment enabled by smartphone use. Carrying both promise and peril, social media extend and complicate the scope of political organizing, but at the same time – the audience seemed to agree – can’t substitute for the live presence of bodies on the line.
Here’s to Week 2 of our action, then – see you all then!
As the weather has decided to end our narrative of struggle against elemental adversity – at least for now! – it’s appropriate that this triumphant Day 5 of the strike should showcase the bright sunlight of activist history (courtesy of today’s picket sponsors in the History department) and of ecopoetic expression (in response to today’s Global Climate Strike, and courtesy of co-sponsors the Department of English & Comparative Literary Studies).
We were heartened, as always, by the strong demonstrations of student support:
(English students support the strike!)
(Liberal Arts students support the strike!)
(Dogs support the strike!)
The Warwick Anti-Casualisation Committee unfurled its banner early this morning:
Meanwhile, the enormously powerful #unistory archive is growing and drawing more and more attention. This simple yet profound act of collective witness has been compared to the Occupy testimonies of a decade ago, and has already been widely circulated beyond Warwick. We are determined to highlight these stories of precarity, overwork, discrimination and struggle for all – including senior administrators – to see.
The day’s activities included a Climate Emergency Q&A hosted by the SU and a forum on “Narratives of Queer Islam: History, Politics, Protest” hosted by Warwick Pride and Warwick Queer History. Fusing scholarship, teaching and activism is a legacy of this action we aim to continue next week. Watch this space!