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Strike advice for students

February 19, 2010

students support strikes

Proposed strike dates: Thursday 25 February, Tuesday 2 March, Thursday 4 March

1. Why are UCU striking?

  • Despite our best efforts to negotiate, management have not so far made any of the key compromises that might solve the dispute. They have broken up previous talks and show no sign that they are ready to reach an agreement with us. That means that strike action is our only remaining option.
  • We are a union of professionals and we know that our members don’t like taking any action that affects students. It is the same for many public services. However, in this dispute, we are convinced that students will suffer infinitely more if management forces its cuts on the university.
  • This is not just a dispute about jobs, it’s about the future of education and our university.
  • Many, many students have already shown us their support. Please join them in helping us to defend education at the University of Leeds.

students support strikes2. I support the UCU, what can I do to demonstrate that support?

Thank you. You can send your message of support here. You can add your photograph to this page or by uploading it to the Facebook page (which you might join). There are a number of student-organised demonstrations you might join, such as this one. We understand that a petition is being circulated, and will confirm this when we know more.

students support strikes3. What if my tutor is not striking, and says my classes are going ahead, but I don’t want to cross a picket line?

Some schools (such as English and History) have declared that they will not count absences from classes on strike days. You might wish to find out from your Head of School (search here if you don’t know who that is) if your School has the same policy.

Some students have expressed concern that if the University obliges them to cross a picket line when they do not wish to do so, this might represent discrimination against them for taking an ideological position. They have also suggested that it might also represent a breach of their human rights (which include an entitlement to political opinion – article 2). We do acknowledge these concerns and our view is that any such opinion should be respected and you should not be penalised for it in any way by the University. Please note that for these very reasons, non-members may also be planning to reschedule their classes away from strike days. Please ensure that you check directly with your tutors or head of school.

students support strikes4. I have an assessment/exam on a strike day. My tutor says they are not a member of UCU and the assessment will be taking place.

We have asked the University for a clarification of this scenario as we do not believe that students should have to cross a picket line if they are ideological opposed to doing so. Again, please discuss this directly with your head of school or tutor.

students support strikes5. Can I join a picket line?

When workers involved in industrial action stage a protest at or near a workplace to increase support for their cause, this is called picketing. We’d be happy to see students who want to come and support us by visiting us on the picket lines. However, we cannot directly encourage you to join us! We warn you – they’ll be starting at 6am! But you’d be welcome to come and say hello (bring us a cup of tea!) any time up to 11am. We’ll be on every major entrance to the University. We won’t exactly be like a scene out of Billy Eliot – there will only be a handful of us at each entrance handing out leaflets and carrying banners. The picket is a peaceful form of protest used to spread further the reasons why we are taking strike action.

students support strikes6. Isn’t striking attacking the wrong people – students?

A strike is a withdrawal of labour. The refuse workers stopped emptying the bins, when they struck, and the postal workers stopped delivering mail. Certainly, in all cases it is the end-user, consumer or beneficiary of that labour who temporarily suffers. We consider this a small inconvenience that we are asking students to bear in order to help us fight against the damaging cuts to your education provision, and the education provision for future generations. A strike is a last resort – we have spent months trying to negotiate and talk to management, but to no avail.

7. Where can I get more information about the reasons for the strike?

students support strikesThe UCU blog is the best source of information on the dispute (and you can subscribe via email, twitter or rss), especially these stories: why are we striking, Lord Mandelson and what we asked for. We also provided an FAQ for students last year (click here to download pdf)

8. What does UCU want?

  • We want the university to remove the threat of compulsory redundancies so that no one is forced out their job.
  • We want the university to halt its cuts programme to give time to look at the impact it will have on the university’s ability to deliver high quality education.
  • We want the university to stop attempting to unilaterally impose what we believe to be hugely damaging cuts and instead to enter into meaningful dialogue with students and the campus trade unions.students support strikes
3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jill permalink
    February 24, 2010 1:28 PM

    Striking is a sorely outdated form of protest.

    You people should know better. Militant trade unionists should not affect the education of thousands of paying students.

  2. February 24, 2010 2:39 PM

    Thanks for your comment Jill. We feel it would be inaccurate to describe the majority of UCU members as ‘militant’. Given the historic turnout and ‘yes’ result for the ballot, the evidence is overwhelming that the decision to take action was taken by people of all political persuations. Given today’s result, it is also clearly evident that strike action is not outmoded, but an efficient and effective modern tool in dispute resolution.

  3. Paul Cook permalink
    February 24, 2010 3:11 PM

    Jill’s definition of ‘militant’ seems to be ‘an academic’. Her definition of ‘outmoded’ seems to be ‘that which actually has results’. She also misunderstands that it was the University that was threatening damage to students, not UCU, both by pushing employees to strike, and by carrying out the stuff that led to strike in the first place

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