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. 

Day 7: Pink Beanies and Resisting the Hostile Environment

It was cold; the picket started early; but we didn’t mind because the infamous pink beanies have finally arrived. We think you’ll agree that we look very comradely and cute!!

After energetic pickets at Gibbet Hill, Lynchgate, Westwood, and Gate House (phew!), we were welcomed back to the bus loop by this creative, hilarious, and very dispiriting sign. Indeed.

The theme of today was “Resistance to Trump and Johnson – Defend Migrants and End the Hostile Environment” and we were lucky enough to have three teach-outs on the topic. First, Was Hannah Jones’ interactive picket line teach out on the Hostile Environment, how it works, and how we can resist it. You can check out her #DigitalPicketLine recap here.

We were also treated to a post-picket teach in led by Aditya Sarkar on the rise of the far right globally and a talk by Ademola Anjorin on the education system and other racist legacies of British colonialism. In addition to spelling out the connections between the marketisation of higher education and the hostile environment, all of these talks suggested concrete ways that students and staff can work together to resist these regimes and create decolonised universities and societies. Jonathan Skinner’s teach out on “print activism” discussed some of the ways that art can play role in this process.

Tomorrow is our last day of strike action this year so let’s make it loud! Bring your voices, instruments, and noise-makers.

 

Day 6: Money (That’s What I Want)

“The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I want money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want
That’s what I want”

Today was another great day on the picket line. The sun was shining and a Motown and Soul playlist kept everyone bopping.

Today’s picket was graciously sponsored by our members from the Philosophy Department and Professional Services from across the University.

We were also joined by Felix Ling, the Labour candidate for Stratford.

We also played the Gender Pay Gap game designed by our member Ninna. Unsurprisingly, the men won!

And speaking of games, our chalk game was seriously on point.

We also continued the production of our #unistories.

As always, we spent time with good friends, old and new!

All in all a good picket! We’re building up for a strong early morning picket tomorrow (8-11) and our best turnout yet on Wednesday (10-1:30)!

WHEN THEY SAY CUT BACK, WE SAY FIGHT BACK!

 

Day 5: You want sunshine, we got sunshine

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!

Day 4: Gorgeous Weather on the Picket Line

What a beautiful day on the picket line! After three days of rain, we had a wonderful day of . . . well, cloud and a bit of drizzle, but it felt like May sunshine.

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We had vibrant pickets at Westwood, Lynchgate, Gibbet Hill, and Gatehouse before returning back to the bus loop for some dancing, singing and chanting.

We were also lucky enough to have the National Educator’s Union (NEU) join us on the picket line and Emma Mort, the Warwickshire District Secretary gave a speech, highlighting the absurdity of universities putting money into capital projects instead of education. Warwick Occupy also came for a visit and gave a moving speech that drew links between our struggles and the anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles they are currently waging.

#Unistories is growing, physically expanding from the busloop to the Occulus and Library, and also growing online. Please come by and write your story, and if you can’t, consider tweeting your experience of the marketised university and why you are striking or supporting the strike.

Following the picket line, were two fabulous teach outs: a discussion on climate change and/as neocolonialism and a debate on Future of the Digital Economy.

Finally, we heard a rumour that the fabled UCU pink beanies might be making an appearance on the picket line tomorrow, but shhhh….don’t tell anyone.

Day 3: #Unistory, Kashmir, and lots more rain

What a day! 

The rain may not have let up, but neither did we, as the picket line continued to grow with faces new and old. Today’s picket line was adopted by PAIS and Modern Languages, which both had great showings of people, camaraderie and food.

We had an important teachout on why the situation in Kashmir is an issue for us in the UK.

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We also launched #unistory, an amazing arts project developed by artist, activist and student Julie Saumagne, where staff and students write their stories and experiences of the marketised, corporatised university, and explain why they are striking or support the strike. Add your own story when you come down to the picket line and check out our twitter feed to watch as the project unfolds. 

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Finally, we said good-bye to our beloved president, Duncan, who is off to start a new job next week. He will be sorely missed.

See you all on the picket line bright and early tomorrow morning!

Day 2: Picketers Rising (Early)

Day Two kicked off early – with many of our members getting up at 5:30 to make it to the picketline for a 7:30 start! The weather was….erm…..better?! And our spirits were high.

We had lively pickets at Lynchgate, Westwood, Gibbet Hill, and the Gatehouse. Members report fabulous conversations at each entrance with supportive staff and students, all of whom were eager to learn more about why we’re on strike and what they can do to help.

 

The day ended with a rally focusing on casualisation, including a brilliant speech by Warwick Anti-Casualisation’s Katja Laug before staff and students broke out for a teach out, “Persuasive Conversations on the Picket Line,” lead by Zarah Sultana and an amazing initiative “Rave, Resist, Register” which saw local Warwick DJs pair up with staff and students to get the vote out!

Reminder that tomorrow we meet at the bus loop at 10AM. Details below:

Wednesday 27 November (USS / pensions)
Meet at the Bus Loop 10am-2pm
(Adopted by PAIS and French/Hispanic Studies)

12-1pm The Relevance of Kashmir for UK Politics

1-1:30pm General Strike of 1926 (Warwick Marxist Society)

 

 

Day 1: Torrential Rain and a Torrent of Support

What an inspiring start to 8 days of strike action. The weather was torrential but so were our spirits!

The opening day of the national UCU strike saw hundreds of staff, students and local supporters turn out in the rain to demand reforms to unsustainable practices in the university sector. The day started with a morning coffee session with 20+ members of our professional services staff (this isn’t just a lecturer’s strike after all!) who then marched together down to the main picket line.

Over the course of the day, over 300 people came through as did numerous  handsome 

 

There was a rally with speakers from local UCU, Warwick Anticasualisation, the Student’s Union, local Parliamentary Candidates Zarah Sultana and Taiwo Owatemi, and Warwick Occupy. All speakers made connections between staff and student concerns in the sector, and some linked the degradation of Higher Education to the pervasive wider impacts of funding cuts and austerity policies across UK societies.

 

It was deeply encouraging to see so much support on this first day, with the action comparing favourably to the first day of the pickets in 2018. The pickets were followed by a full afternoon of teach-out events organised by staff and students, including workshops on the Ecology of the Campus and on Digital Labour.

External examiners resign in strike protest

We, the undersigned, have tendered our collective resignation from the School of Law and Social Justice at the University of Liverpool in protest at the University’s advice to students in respect of the UCU industrial action which begins today (Monday, 25 November) and expected to last until Wednesday, 4 December.

We have taken this decision out of concern at the University of Liverpool’s misrepresentation of the law regarding support for official pickets and its weaponising of the UK immigration system against visa-holding students.

The University of Liverpool, in an email signed off by Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Professor Gavin Brown on Friday, 22 November, warned students that it is unlawful to join pickets and that if they choose not to attend any lectures or tutorials, they will be marked as absent with an effect on their attendance record and that they may not have access to alternative learning materials and no consideration will be given to these absences at exam boards. Further, the University warned international students that should they choose not to cross picket lines to attend teaching sessions, they risk jeopardising their visa because the University’s usual policy on absences among international students will apply. The University’s policy can be found here.

As examiners, we are especially concerned by the failure to assure students that it is entirely lawful to support an official picket at the same time as informing them that joining a picket per se is unlawful for non-Union members. We are also deeply concerned by the University’s weaponisation of the UK’s immigration system by failing to put into place systems for visa holding students to ensure that they can support action by not crossing a picket line, should that be their choice. Other institutions are putting in place appropriate systems for their protection, respectful of diversity of opinion and conscience across their university community.

Universities rely on the modestly remunerated work and collegiality of external examiners to deliver their programmes. We are grateful for, impressed by, and supportive of the excellent educational work undertaken by our colleagues in Liverpool.

However, in the light of what we consider to be a combative and intimidatory approach to student support for industrial action, we cannot continue to support the University of Liverpool through the provision of our labour.

We urge other external examiners who are similarly concerned with the University of Liverpool policy to do the same.

Prof Fiona de Londras, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham
Dr Natasa Mavronicola, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham
Dr Jed Meers, York Law School, University of York
Dr Yoriko Otomo, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Prof Sally Sheldon, Kent Law School, University of Kent
Dr Celine Tan, School of Law, University of Warwick
Dr Anil Yilmaz Vastardis, School of Law, University of Essex

The full text of our resignation can be found here.