Brighton’s picket lines were heaving with people today. UCU and Unison members are on strike for three days; the 24th, 25th and 30th of November. Workers from every area of the university withdrew their labour. From cleaners to canteen staff, lecturers to administrators we showed the senior management team that without our work the university cannot function. We are the university, they are nothing but a badly organised managerial framework without us.

Pickets took place over three sites. Sometimes with picket lines you worry about numbers being spread thin. Not today. There were ample numbers to cover all entrances and exits. Students supported staff with hand made signs. Drivers blared their horns as they passed. We set up a breakfast BBQ in the morning and had a teach out at the local pub in the afternoon.

Sometimes people question strikers in a university setting. “Aren’t you only harming our young people?” they occasionally ask. Personally I think it’s the best education students are going to get. Progressive change only happens when people leverage their collective power against those exploiting them. Our students enter a workforce that is continually having its pay and conditions eroded. And from housing to energy bills, the cost of living is only going up. Our students are often already involved in setting up support systems. For example in the CORN community union and the relatively newer trade unions - such as UVW and IWGB. I see our strikes as supporting their struggle.

In the afternoon it was our students who delivered the teach out session. They devised a board game called Deliverights where you are a cycle courier and the aim of the game is to unionise your workplace. They based this on the testimony of IWGB members. As we sat and engaged in this radical form of play, I felt we were all learning more than we ever could in the neoliberal academy.

If we want to save higher education the only way forward is to escalate our action. The HE sector had a £3.4 billion surplus last year. That was made off the back of our members. Looking at the race, gender and disability pay gaps we see that it is a racist, sexist and ableist surplus. Examining our pay, workloads and casualised contracts we know it is an exploitative surplus. So our employers can either give back what is already ours or we go on indefinite strike in the new year. As the Moulsecoomb branch chair said at our rally: “this only ends when we win”.


The University Worker

Bulletin written for, and by, University Workers. Back issues here