Beware the Ides of March! It’s a fateful day for our employers. Faced with such unity from UCU members here in Cardiff and across the country, as well as a substantial list of student occupations on campuses from Aberdeen to Exeter, we’re hearing VCs climb back on the removal of Defined Benefits and the undermining of strike activity, as with Cambridge. Others, such as Glasgow, say their position is ‘essentially the same as that of UCU’. Others still, such as Queen’s Belfast, state a commitment to independent valuation of the USS. Here in Cardiff, we received the welcome news through Twitter that Cardiff University will spread deductions over three months. Furthermore, they ‘do not envisage circumstances where colleagues [that’s us] will have pay withheld for action short of a strike.’ This is the effect our collective action has taken – the commitment to 14 days of strikes and the courage to say no to a bad deal offered this week.
Ways of reaching out
Members of Cardiff UCU continue to find new ways of reaching staff, students, and the public. Colleagues at the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, conveniently located in Main Building, have set up a stall to explain their teaching, their research, and the reasons why they’re out on the picket line. It’s a high-traffic, high-visibility spot, and everyone’s welcome to come and find out a bit more about what they do. The idea comes from Marc Millet and Dave Thompson, and we thank Stephen Barker for telling us all about it at today’s rally. (Thanks also to Daniel Hobley for sharing his photo with us.)
Meanwhile, Paul Brennan and Renata Medeiros-Mirra represented UCU at an open session with about 50-60 students, including undergraduates and postgraduates, organised by the Students’ Union. This was a student-only affair, with Karen Holford and Amanda Coffey representing university management. Students were naturally worried about the impact of the strike action on their learning, but they showed strong support for the action and for the right and need to decent pensions. Their questions were directed mainly at the university management to understand what will be done to support them, whether they will receive compensation, and why the university isn’t communicating more with them. Many thanks to Paul and Renata for taking part.
Our continuing series of teach-outs met this afternoon. Environmental issues were on the table, including a provocative session from UCU environmental officer Paul Rock, Trevor Dale from Biosciences, and People Planet on sustainability and the kinds of companies and initiatives our contested USS currently invests in.
Taking the struggle further
An open letter is circulating to put our concerns about the USS in writing to the Welsh Government. Cardiff UCU member Vicki Wass has been invited to meet with Lynne Neagle Chair of the Education Committee to expand the discussion started in the open letter. There’s still time to sign the letter, however, by clicking here.
We had the potential for a double appearance of MPs at our rally. Sadly, Jo Stevens was called away to Westminster. We were nonetheless cheered to hear from Stephen Doughty, a firm union supporter. He reiterated what we heard at the Assembly on Tuesday: support for our struggle and affirmation of our vote to reject the proposed deal. Further, he agreed with our broader struggle to ensure universities are fair, open, and administered in line with public values. Steven told us he will be meeting with our vice-chancellor, Colin Riordan, next Tuesday, and he promised to report back on the outcome of that discussion.
We’ll be back to work by then, but we have one day of strike action left.
We want to put on the biggest rally yet to demonstrate the solidarity and growth that Cardiff UCU has shown over the last four weeks. If you haven’t joined us yet, here is your chance. If you have come down – once, twice, or every day – don’t miss it.
- Join your school picket line from 8am.
- A special note that CARBS will not be picketing at their building tomorrow, out of respect for the funeral that day. But any CARBS members who want to take some action prior to the funeral are encouraged to convene at Main Building so IT staff can picket outside their buildings instead of at Main Building.
- That’s where everyone can gather at 11 for a mass rally of music, speeches, and fancy dress.
We’ve been so impressed by everyone’s commitment, and we’ve got a lot to be proud of. We’ll see you there tomorrow.
Cardiff UCU Strike Communications Team