The UCU Strike in Pictures

As the UCU strike enters its second week, disrupting a usual schedule of lectures and seminars across campus, academic staff continue to demand change for their pensions, which campaign material states will be ‘axed’ if action is not taken.

According to UCU, the proposals imposed by Universities UK (UUK) will mean cuts of up to £10,000 a year for the average member of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

In walk-outs, pickets and marches across London, College staff have been pictures standing up for their rights in bold, striking, and even innovative ways. Day One and Two of King’s related action saw large numbers gather on the picket lines, and, as the snow fell heavily on the streets of London on Day Three of the strikes, some continued to brave the cold, albeit in arguably reduced numbers, to make their voices heard. Of course, the strikes also saw the University of London come together in collective action, in a protest which began at SOAS on Malet Street with food, music and even an open fire to warm hands (or indeed, marshmallows, if you’d brought them along with you).

Roar photographer, Jared Phanco, alongside other members of the Roar Editorial Team donned coats, hats, gloves and snow-appropriate shoes to report across the week…

The University of London protest on Day Three of King’s strike action drew universities from across the capital, and even the solidarity of the University of Cambridge who an announcer stated were present. Roar reporters walked across the snow-covered Russell Square and Malet Street Gardens to arrive at a protest that merely five minutes after the scheduled starting time was in full swing: music playing, drums banging, a collective of voices shouting familiar and catchy chants: “We’re out here, in the snow, UUK has got to go!”, “We’re out here, in the snow, Theresa May has got to go!” and “Students and workers – unite and fight!”

On Malet Street, as the protestors began to form, there was a definite officer presence, presumably to organise strike action and make sure all protestors were safe.

In the adverse weather conditions of London, where the so-called ‘Beast of the East’ was at its peak, the turn-out was admirable and spoke to the determination of academics to ensure their voices were heard.

A member of academic staff in the crowd stated, “I don’t want to strike, I love working and learning, I love teaching my students, but this is unfair.”

Noticeable within the protest was a spirit of confidence… and solidarity. The Socialist Worker tent handed out placards with the message ‘Strike for education – fight for pay and pensions”, a stall offered hearty helpings of food, protesters gathered around a warm fire, which we were invited to crowd around. It was clear this was a protest about group resistance, where the fight belongs to staff and students alike as they united in a bold show of opposition to the UUK and, indeed, the institutions to which they subscribe.

And there was a level of amusement to be found across the week too, a demonstration that despite the seriousness of the issue, and the dedication of academic staff to ensure their rights, a bit of fun can be had to temper the cold weather. A placard with the words ‘Pensions not Pornstars’ featured outside UUK central offices, referencing a vice-chancellor’s expenses request for a pornstar martini, ‘FUUK OFF’ and ‘Bitch better have my money’ banners featured on the picket lines as ABBA’s S.O.S – seemingly an anthem for the protest – blasted across speakers, and one banner featured College Principal Ed Byrne as Mr Burns from popular TV show, The Simpsons.

“I’m here in solidarity,” said one student to Roar, “Most of us stand with academic staff against what unis are doing. 10k a year average in cuts is insane and we all have a duty to talk about it.” And there appeared to be many students present at the protest – choosing to stand up and speak out whilst they are also being affected. Members of academic staff urged students not to cross the picket line and instead stand alongside them in protest towards universities. Many did so, taking an active role in strike action.

As the weather appears to have taken a turn for the better this week, strike action will continue, with UCU unwilling to call off strikes until the UUK begins to consider their demands. According to one e-mail from a member of academic staff, ‘talks between the UUK and UCU are taking place this week’. Nonetheless, support for the campaign does not appear to wane and will continue on in determination.




Words: Rebekah Evans

All photography courtesy of Jared Phanco for Roar News.

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