Strike action escalates at Uni of Leeds

Historic action began at University of Leeds on Thursday 15th June with UCU escalating their action to an indefinite strike action following the implementation of 100% pay deductions from university management for staff taking part in the marking and assesment boycott, whilst Unison won a second reballot for the first time and began a programme of 11 days of strike action over the coming fortnight.

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

This of course follows discontinuous strike action over the USS pension scheme and pay going back in the case of UCU to before the Covid-19 pandemic!

The sunny weather undoubtedly contributed to the upbeat moods on the picket lines, with the strike band playing and the ‘running picket’ visiting pickets around the perimeter of campus as well as junior doctors at the hospital near to the university.

Given the many days of strike action taken by both unions so far, then alongside a determined mood on the picket lines, was high levels of interest in other strike action over pay taking place, including the strikes in FE colleges, the junior doctors, and the indefinite action beginning that weekend by First Bus drivers in Leeds.

Whilst the determination of University of Leeds workers is clear, it is worth remembering that these are not simply localised disputes. The strike action of Unison and UCU members at University of Leeds is the most intense strike action either union is currently undertaking in Higher Education.

In UCU, whilst other branches have also engaged in the marking and assessment boycott, the different response from employers in terms of threats of pay deductions, and the confidence or not of members to take further sustained strike action has meant different responses at each institution.

Nevertheless, UCU members at a whole series of universities have or plan to take strike action over pay deductions – with UCU at 14 other universities having taken or announced strike action this month.

In Unison, a further 6 university branches renewed their mandates for strike action alongside University of Leeds Unison taking strike action this month, with Unison branches at 28 further universities balloting for strike action.

Whilst determined action locally can push university management on the marking boycott and changing local policies, the success of the national dispute is crucial, that’s why democratic bodies to discuss and co-ordinate action both within and across higher education  unions are crucial to win.

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