Day 6: Building the shadow university (in full sun)

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.

 

Day 5: All the Weather for International Solidarity Day

We had a great turnout for Day Five, which we marked as International Solidarity Day. There were some fabulous banners and placards, and we made the most of a few delightfully sunny moments to assemble for a round of invigorating chants:

We had an inspiring teachout – “Patients Not Passports” – on the history of migrant charges in the NHS and the ongoing battle against point-of-care charges (and indeed, “built-in” immigrant charges).

Many thanks to Laura Schwartz and Roberta Bivins (History) for providing some useful and interesting context as well as clear actions we can take to support a truly free and universal NHS.

We also benefited from an excellent teachout on multilingualism from Richard Smith and Carolin Debray, colleagues in Applied Linguistics, in which the impressive range of languages spoken by UCU members was on display.

Finally, many thanks to Film and Television Studies for adopting today’s picket, and for bringing along morale-boosting small comrades (with two legs and four):

We’re back at work Thursday and Friday, but don’t forget to keep those warm clothes ready for a four-day walkout next week, starting with a 10am-1pm picket on Monday.

Solidarity forever!

Day 4: Sunshine, Laughter, Anti-Racism

Today was another excellent day on the picket line! Fortunately, the weather gods smiled on us, and we finally got some sun and blue sky.

We were delighted to have the company of Aisghair, a beautiful, and very enthusiastic, dog.

First, we congregated at the bus interchange, picked up materials (and, crucially, donuts) and dispersed to picket at various campus entrances.

We returned to the interchange a couple of hours later, for a session of laughter yoga led by Nese Ceren. This involved imagining ourselves in a number of different scenarios, such as having a funny conversation on the phone; being in an argument; and dragging a heavy bag while attempting to catch a train.

We spent plenty of time laughing at each other, as well as at ourselves: a refreshing change from a regular day at a university!

After a bit more chanting (“They say casualise / We say organise!”), we closed the picket for the day.

Later we went to The Graduate for a timely teach out titled “Anti-Chinese racism at Warwick: contagious even when apparently asymptomatic?” This gave us the opportunity to have an important conversation about Sinophobia, and the ways in which it is intertwined with current anxieties to do with the coronavirus.

Looking forward to seeing you again tomorrow. It looks set to be a busy, but fun, day. We’re meeting at the bus loop at 10am, and picketing in various locations. There are two teach outs: one called “Patients not passports”, on the policing of the NHS, led by historians Laura Schwartz and Roberta Bivins; the second, “Let’s get multilingual!”, is led by Carolin Debray and Richard Smith from Applied Linguistics. Finally, there’s the International Solidarity March, which starts at 1.30 on the piazza.

Solidarity!

Day 3: Listen to that wind…!

 

The weather wasn’t our friend last week and it wasn’t today! We really put the tent and our brand-new PA system through their paces when a particularly anti-union gust caused a little chaos. Still, we had a solid and energetic crowd of picketers and supporters (as always, it’s so wonderful to see students out on the line asking questions and showing solidarity).  Special thanks to Hispanic and French Studies for holding down the fort, and to Carrie Benjamin for emcee’ing the Social Strike Game.

Day 3 Pickets

Braving the wind and rain, a hardy group returns from the roundabout for some feel-good chanting:

Day 3 Pickets action

And Warwick was proudly represented at the UCEA negotiation picket too! Hope you folks were drier than we were:

Warwick UCU in London

See you all on the line tomorrow. We’re picketing car parks from 8-10 and reuniting at the Interchange from 10-11. Meet up at the Interchange at 8 before we head out to various locations. Dress warmly and bring all your positive energy to help get colleagues to join the strike.

Solidarity forever!

Day 2: Online, on the line

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!

Day 1: Same Bad Weather, Same Fighting Spirit

Well, the UUK/UCEA weather gods really showed their wrath today as over 100 staff and students braved the winds and rain to make clear that we are not giving up until we’ve secured our pensions, and made our jobs safe, secure, and equitable.

We had a fabulous opening rally with speakers from Warwick Anti-Casualisation, the Professional Services Staff, Working Group, Warwick Anti-Casualisation, Warwick Occupy, and Warwick Labour.

 

 

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We then relaunched our amazing #unistories project by replanting them in the ground near our picketline. These stories are at the heart of our picket, telling the stories of how the marketised university is hurting staff and students. These are our stories and they are the stories of why we fight.

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Having shown the weather gods that we’re not afraid of a few gale force winds and rain, we ended the day with two amazing teach outs in a packed (and thankfully cosy) house. First, our amazing colleagues from law used an umbrella to explain the securitising of student debt and gave an amazing history of the Trade Union Act.

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This was followed up by a collective envisioning of the University we could have and the University we are fighting for. We’ll look forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

Warwick UCU Guidance for 2019/2020 National Elections

By now, you will have hopefully received your ballots for the Trustee, Officer and NEC electionsThese elections are hugely important, but because there are so many different positions we are being asked to vote on, they can also be confusing to members which often leads to low turnout. We’re hoping that by giving some guidance we can change that!

Key information:

  • Voting closes on 4 March but it’s a postal ballot, so make sure you get your ballots in by the 2nd of March. If  you haven’t yet received your ballot, order a replacement here.
  • Because all NEC, officer and trustee ballots are conducted by single transferable vote (STV), voters MUST rank candidates in order of preference (1, 2, 3 etc) until they can no longer express a preference for any candidate. If you just mark a candidates name, it will be considered a spoiled ballot
  • Warwick UCU members are eligible to vote in the following categories: Trustee, Vice-President (becoming president in 2022-23), UK-elected members HE (5 seats; to include at least one post-92, one academic related), and Representatives of women members (5 seats; three HE and two FE members to be elected).
  • Two groups have officially put out slates of candidates: UCU Left and Grady4GS (which represents the group who organised Jo Grady’s campaign; Jo herself as GS is not endorsing any candidates).

Whilst we do not have a branch position, certain members of our committee are offering recommendations of candidates to vote for. Below are their recommendations: 

UCU NEC recommendations from Myka Tucker-Abramson (Chair, Warwick UCU)

These recommendations are based on my experience as a UCU activist for the past five years as well as my experience as part of a grassroots, national anti-casualisation group (FACE) before that. I am recommending three candidates whom I have worked with and think would be excellent. I am also recommending four other members who I know less well, but think are hugely impressive. All of the candidates I am endorsing or trans-allies.

Mike Finn as UK Elected Member HE
Mike is hugely knowledgeable about the HE sector and trade unionism. He has a proven track record of fighting for UCU to be a truly democratic union. He is principled, fearless, truly independent and has mentored numerous trade union activists. Mike Finn was also a branch secretary at Warwick UCU whilst he worked here for a year.

Mark Pendleton as UK Elected Member HE
Mark has been a highly effective organiser for the rights of casualised, LGBTQ+, and migrant members. He co-founded the peer-network group International & Broke, which supports HE migrant staff and was crucial to getting migrant representation in the union. Mark is an experienced and committed grassroots activist and would be a real asset on the HEC.

Rhiannon Lockley for Women’s Officer
Rhiannon is a fierce and committed trade unionist, feminist, and anti-racist activist and organiser, and has been a particularly important presence in the West Midlands regional UCU.  Based in Birmingham, she would also bring more of our regional perspective to national. Finally, she is a trans-inclusive feminist which is very important in these elections.

I am also recommending the following members who I know less well, but who I think would be excellent:

Rhian Elinor Keyes for Women’s Officer

Leon Rocha for UK-elected members HE

David Harvie for Midlands HE

Margot Hill for Vice President

Finally, I highly rate both people running as representatives of migrant members, Robin Orfitelli and Dima Chami, but this is uncontested.

 

UCU NEC Recommendations Gavin Schwartz-Leeper (Assistant Secretary, Warwick UCU)

I’ll be supporting Mike Finn for NEC. Mike is our former branch secretary and has been an active branch leader at Liverpool Hope and Exeter (beyond Warwick). Mike’s expertise in higher education policy (and Brexit in particular) gives him a really useful perspective on national issues, as has his years working as a journalist and in Westminster as a policy expert. He co-authored a call for a new Condcordat for HE with Jo Grady and has worked on aspects of academic freedom relating to trade unionism. He’s a tireless activist for international, anti-racist, pro-trans (and wider LGBTQ+), and anti-casualisation issues. While he’s a committed left-wing activist, he supports a non-factional and member-led union. Mike’s always been an independent voice and I can’t think of anyone I’d trust more to represent rank and file UCU members.

 

UCU NEC Recommendations from Justine Mercer (elected UCU NEC rep for the East and West Midlands)

Having served on the NEC for three years, I am recommending three candidates I know well and rate very highly:

Theresa Forde (University of Derby) as # 1 for Midlands HE (East and West)

Michael Carley (University of Bath)andJamie Melrose (University of Bristol) as # 1 and 2 for UK HE

Theresa Forde (Derby)
Theresa has done great work on the East Midlands Regional Committee whose meetings I attend. She has been an activist for many years. Currently, our region does not have an elected HEC rep from a post-1992 university that takes part in national bargaining. We need a strong voice from this section of our union so that post-1992 institutions can benefit from the kind of transformation the pre-1992 sector enjoyed as a result of the 2018 USS strike.

Michael Carley (Bath)
Michael is a strong, independent candidate. His strategic thinking and timely contributions are invaluable in getting the various UCU committees (NEC, HEC and Education) to focus on our longer-term goals rather than technical minutiae. I have witnessed this at first-hand many times. He also writes a very informative, accurate and non-partisan blog.

Jamie Melrose (Bristol)
Jamie served on UCU’s Commission for Effective Industrial Action and is another strategic thinker. He has an impressive track record in his local branch (Anti-casualisation rep, Secretary and caseworker) and in the South West region (Regional Chair). I have seen him in action at many Congresses and HE Conferences.

 

Committee of Warwick UCU Stands in Solidarity with the Residents of the Issawiyah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem

Please find below an email Warwick UCU Committee has sent to the Hebrew University Administration. This is part of an international campaign headed by Academia for Equality. For more information about the organisation and to read their statement, go here.

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To the Hebrew University administration,

We write as the committee of the Warwick University branch of the Universities and College Union (UCU) to express our objection to the Hebrew University’s involvement in police harassment of residents of the Issawiyah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.

We were greatly concerned to learn of the Hebrew University’s longstanding involvement in restricting the movement of residents of Issawiyah by requesting a police closure of an entrance to the neighbourhood. More recently, we hear that the Hebrew University has escalated its role in police harassment of Palestinians through permitting police surveillance of Issawiyah from campus.

We unequivocally condemn these actions, which intensify the domination of Palestinians in Issawiyah, make Palestinian staff and students feel unsafe, and have no place in a university. We stand in solidarity with Palestinians in Issawiyah and at Hebrew University, and with our allies in Academia for Equality, which campaigns for access to higher education for all communities in Israel.

Universities should be spaces of openness, dialogue and learning. However, as Warwick students occupying our own Students Union in November reminded us, universities often remain complicit in the discriminatory and violent practices of wider society, and we must work hard to ensure that Universities become juster, more democratic spaces.

We call on the Hebrew University to respect Palestinian rights, end its involvement in police harassment of the residents of Issawiyah, and uphold its mission as an institution of learning.

Sincerely,
Warwick UCU

Warwick UCU supports striking French workers

As French public sector workers continue their strike action against damaging pension reforms, Warwick UCU sends a special message of support and solidarity to all members of Éducation SUD, the education workers’ union. In the midst of UCU’s own campaign against degradation of pensions, pay and working conditions, we salute our colleagues who have joined the struggle of millions of workers in France against the government’s drive to replace security with precarity among those who do essential work. Our solidarity across national borders is a recognized strength of all working people. Your fight against privatisation and austerity is inspiring to us; your victory will be ours as well.

 

Statement of Solidarity With Those Protesting Against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019

Warwick UCU stands in solidarity with students, academics, and other citizens fighting to defend democratic rights in India by protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. We note that the Act, which professes to provide preferential treatment to religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan in the process of acquiring Indian citizenship, explicitly excludes Muslims from its purview. As many have pointed out, this exclusion, which is based on religious identity, is both immoral and unconstitutional. We condemn the use of violent police force in suppressing the aforementioned protests over the past week, which have involved the firing of tear gas bullets and water cannons, as well as alleged acts of sexual harassment, and the alleged use of firearms and pellets. Further, we condemn the undemocratic measures taken by the Indian government in response to the protests, including a widespread internet shutdown and curfew orders. 

We also note the horrifying violence inflicted by the state governments of Uttar Pradesh and other states where the police force is controlled by the ruling party. A large number of citizens, most of them Muslim, have been killed in UP, and several others elsewhere. There is a marked contrast between the treatment of protestors by police in BJP and non-BJP states: it can only be concluded from this that the ruling party has openly sanctioned violence against those who disagree with them, and in particular against Muslims. 

We have however been deeply moved by the massive and peaceful democratic protests that have taken place in many parts of the country. The citizens participating in these protests stand for democracy and constitutional principles, and the government whose policies they are opposing clearly stand for the opposite. The Modi government’s crackdown upon the protests is yet another chapter in its shameful abuse of human rights across the country. We wish to make it clear to the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the ruling party that the world is watching them as they try to erode the world’s largest democracy.

We resolve to support all peaceful protests against the Act, and we affirm the right of students, academics, and all citizens to participate in such protests, in India and across the world. 

PS For more information, we recommend this “cheatsheet” which debunks state propaganda on the protests.