photo Leeds UCU

photo Leeds UCU   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

Well over 100 strikers and supporters rallied at Leeds University on the fifth day of strike action on 28 February. Nearby Leeds Trinity university was one of 14 universities joining the strike action nationally in this latest round of 14 days, taking the number in total to 74.

Both universities have been taking part in the latest round of strike action over the ‘Four Fights’ on pay, inequality, workload and casualisation. Leeds Uni has also been part of the USS pension scheme dispute.

Strikers at Leeds Uni are proud to have maintained all 17 picket lines at entrances to the university through terrible weather, with driving rain and snow. One picket commented: “If they weren’t sure how serious we were about these issues, the picketing in sleet makes it really clear.”

A Leeds Uni striker said they felt lucky compared to others that they had a contract up to September! At Leeds Trinity one striker had had seven jobs at one point to make ends meet!

Cutbacks have been a factor too. The entire history department at Leeds Trinity was cut mid-term, with students forced to change courses.

Cutbacks have meant a new layer of activists have had to come forward to rebuild the University and College Union (UCU) branch and get over the 50% turnout threshold on their strike ballot at the second attempt.

While several strikers were optimistic that both sets of employers had asked for talks with the UCU to take place, others were more cynical about whether even these 14 days would result in substantial concessions.

Therefore, several pickets had already begun to discuss what comes next after this round of strike action, especially as further action would likely be during an exam period rather than regular teaching.

Socialist Party members have visited both Leeds University and Leeds Trinity during this round of action and will be continuing to mobilise support within the trade union movement locally, including Leeds Trade Union Council which has donated £250 to the hardship fund and is mobilising its members to join a planned demonstration through the city on 13 March.