The 14 days of industrial action across our universities and colleges by UCU members is an example of an organised, engaged workforce rising up on an issue that is dear to them. The USS pension attack on lecturers seeks to end guaranteed pensions benefits and base final pensions on “investment performance” rather than member contributions.
Busting the intent of the anti-union legislation, the inspiring UCU strike is drawing mass picket line support, generating incredible social media coverage and new members are flocking to the union in droves. The strength of feeling is such that ordinary members take to the street to protest at the prospect of their negotiating team accepting a lesser deal.
Solidarity is coming from more than just the usual labour movement voices. Most crucially the teachers have won the support of the very people the right wing commentariat try to paint as victims of a strike. Students instead are occupying their colleges in support of the strikers, not complaining that their learning is disrupted.
Who would have thought pensions and pay of university boffins strike would ignite such solidarity? With 17 student sit ins across the UK, student activism appears to have returned to out campuses. Picket-line support,Teach-ins and occupations are heartlifting.
A teenage FE student rebel in the early 1980S, I spent many a night sleeping on hard linoleum floors in the name of student occupation. Back then we were protesting cuts to grants and bursaries. This generation, themselves facing massive financial burdens of student loans and tuition fee debt, are sitting in not for themselves but for the rights of those who teach them. I cut my political baby teeth leading direct action and college occupations. Those rapidly learned skills in organising, campaigning and negotiation stayed with me and has fed my activism ever since.
So solidarity from both me and my younger self to the UCU strikers and their student supporters. “Organise! Occupy! Kick the Tories Out!”