Huge support on first day of UCU pensions strike at Leeds Uni

Around 500 staff, students and supporters joined the demonstration and rally organised by UCU to Mark mark the first day of their national strike action over attacks on pensions.

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

Between 150-200 strikers turned up to help picket with seemingly every one of the tens of entrances to the university covered by at least a couple of pickets if not half a dozen or so.

It was striking the number of younger academics joining this strike, many of whom are on short-term or other insecure contracts. Whilst many had struck during the ‘Sacker’s Charter’ dispute last year, many were today picketing for the first time.

A key factor in this has been the huge student support at the University. Hundreds of students have signed petitions, including one initiated by Socialist Students, critical of Leeds Uni’s Vice-Chancellor’s stance of not doing anything about the dispute alleging that he has ‘no influence’. On the picket lines many staff commented that the VC, a former head of HEFCE, always brags about how much influence he has.

Socialist Students members building support on campus amongst students in the run-up to the strike – photo Iain Dalton

But this position has been combined with very hostile emails to students and staff over the dispute, which have proven counterproductive. This huge support has undoubtedly given staff a huge boost of support.

The strike also saw tremendous solidarity from the local trade union movement, with local TU activists joining picket lines and banners from Leeds Uni Unison, PCS and Leeds TUC being amongst those present on the strike rally demo.

Socialist Party members join the picket lines – photo Scott Jones

Socialist Party members spent the morning visiting picket lines and discussing the action with strikers. We distributed copies of our strike bulletin and sold a dozen copies of the Socialist. We also helped with the success of the strike rally by lending UCU our PA system, a vital necessity given the huge numbers in attendance.

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