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From the pickets: Reports from strikes in FE/HE

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On 3 December workers in universities from the Unite, Unison and UCU as well as UCU members from FE colleges took strike action as part of their fight for fair pay. Here we have reports from picket lines:

 

Leicester:

At the University of Leicester the pickets were slightly smaller than October 31 but this was due to being spread more thinly because we picketed more sites. We had the official support of the Students' Union, who provided hot drinks and cake for strikers, and put up banners around the SU building in solidarity. On the picket lines we collected hundreds of signatures for our petition, organised jointly between the three campus unions and the SU, for the University to pay all staff the living wage. Currently Leicester City Council and other higher education institutions locally have agreements on the living wage, but the University claims that the 10% of staff who are currently paid below the living wage, are paid above the market rate. There was very wide support for the living wage, especially considering the millions of pounds operating surplus that the University has.  Whatever the outcome of the pay dispute, the living wage campaign will take us beyond it with all the unions plus the students' union fighting side by side.  -Tom Mycock, Unite shop steward

Liverpool:

Around 25 students have occupied at the University of Liverpool (in 1 Abercromby Square) in support of today's national strike action by staff in the UCU, Unite and Unison unions over a real terms pay cut of 14% since 2008. At the University of Liverpool support staff in Unison and Unite followed the national strike with action over changes to contracts, so-called 5-in-7 contracts, that would see some of the lowest paid staff working longer and more unsociable hours without proper remuneration. Some staff who rely on overtime to top up wages are set to lose thousands a year. These attacks are believed to be the precursor to outsourcing and the job losses, worsening of pay, pensions and conditions that come with it. Already there are plans to outsource security roles in February 2014 which will result in job losses. 

Further to this the regional and national bureaucracy of the unions have been sluggish at best; at worst they have been deliberately obstructive and damaging. On Monday members of Unite at the university were told their strike had been called off leaving Unison strikers in the lurch. Furious rank and file Unite members held an ad hoc open air meeting and voted not to cross picket lines (effectively to strike) and demanded a full members' meeting on campus next week. The occupation is (at the time of writing) heading into its second night after a day of teach-in sessions on subjects such as the Quebec student movement, women and social movements, radical/alternative education and extreme energy/climate change, with film showings planned for the evening. Yesterday students drafted a statement and safe spaces policy which can be read here, and solidarity has been rolling in nationally, internationally and in the form of food, drink and blankets...and a pan of scouse!

To find out more about the occupation at Liverpool and keep up with their protest find them on:

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Bradford and Leeds:

Good picket lines were held on both the university and nearby college campuses. Pickets received very positive responses from passers by from leaflets to honks from cars. I was at the college most of the time where there were about 20 pickets most of the time though personnel varied. Support also came from the student union in the form of drinks, homemade placards in our support and a large homemade banner. The strength of the strike varied from department to department; all of the A-level lecturers were out, but this was not the same across the board. A rally was held in Centenary Square, on the steps of Bradford City Hall, where about 30 demonstrators gathered with some interested spectators. This was followed by a joint rally in Leeds, on the steps of the Art Gallery, next to Leeds City Hall. Here there were about 200-300 people, mainly from Leeds, whose contingent had marched from Parkinson Steps (main Leeds Uni building) to the rally. A report from the local press can be found here.

Tower Hamlets:

The strike was solid on both sites. There was a smaller picket line at Poplar site than the last time, but only one or two hourly paid staff went in. This was much more about job security than payment as we did offer to reimburse HPLs. The other site was excellent too, but they laid on a brazier with pancakes and waffles and so unsurprisingly boasted a far bigger picket line.

University of the West of England:

Despite a smaller turnout from staff than the previous day of strike action on 31 October spirits remained high and there was more support than previously from students and local activists who brought with them cake. The students' union provided hot drinks for the pickets.

Hastings:

There were 2 picket lines in Hastings; one at the University of Brighton .and one at the FE College. The university picket line was very encouraging. Numbers on the picket line up from 4 on the last day of action to 13. Pickets were much more confident and not mincing their words. Whilst a fair number of staff and students, brushed past some did stop and listen. The FE College however was a different story, a few staff on strike but no pickets. Some students boycotted lessonsm, but stayed at home. In a mild sort of way Hastings teachers may well be on the move, interest was certainly shown in the IS Network and Left Unity.

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