Well, folks, we’ve come to the end of Week Three. We wish we didn’t have to be out here still, and we hope for goodness at the national level in talks between UCU and UUK. Locally, though, we’ve seen a lot of progress with a joint statement released today between our local UCU strike committee and university management. In it, “the Vice-Chancellor and Cardiff UCU have agreed to call on both UCU and UUK to work with USS to challenge the Pension Regulator to accept an academically robust, new and independent actuarial valuation.” Furthermore, “the Vice-Chancellor reiterated his support for working towards a solution that works for employee and employer alike.” You can read the whole thing here.
That’s not enough to pull us off the picket lines, but it certainly gives us something to talk about with our colleagues when we’re back in the office tomorrow (barring any freak snowstorms…) We are the union, and it is our strength and resolve that has gotten us as far as we are.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – today was also great because of the mighty rally (thanks Jonathan Ablitt for the mind-bending panoramic photo). It’s been our custom to gather outside the gates of Main Building at 11 o’clock, but today, we put on extra numbers and were joined by students, unionists from other sectors, and a healthy clutch of politicians. We had drums, dogs, and determination, and we marched down Park Place, past the museum and City Hall, then up past Registry (where some of us got a few thumbs-up from the window!) and into Alexandra Gardens. It was inspiring to see so many of us out there, smiling, marching, and making noise. The police figure there were 600, and since police numbers work the opposite of UUK pension maths, we can be certain we had a thousand out.
We had rousing speeches, including a fiery, bilingual, and on-point address from Plaid Cymru AM Adam Price. We had strong women from politics and union activity speaking to us here on International Women’s Day, including Labour MPs Anna McMorrin and Carolyn Harris, Beth Webster from the Royal College of Nursing, and Claudia Boes linking our struggle to the International Women’s Day Strike held this afternoon. Finally, Adam Johannes gave a passionate speech that put our struggle in the wider context. What will people say about those academics who stood up in 2018? How will we be remembered? I hope they will say more than, “Well, they sure did protect their pensions.”
More political pressure
So let’s keep the heat on. Though we have a positive statement from university management, we will continue to press them on retaining the defined benefits and removing the threat of deducted wages for action short of a strike. Though the vice-chancellor seemed unaware of any such threats during his Question Time appearance on Monday, Cardiff University still sits on the Academic Boycott list for excessive punitive action on non-strike days. We’d also like a commitment from the university *not* to deduct our pay, given the opaque conditions through which Cardiff’s reply to UUK on the valuation risk was made. And we will continue to press for clarity on that decision making process, to protect us in the future.
We’d like to be back to work next week, but that requires a resolution that satisfies our demands. Until that happens, we keep pushing. Cardiff UCU members met this afternoon with Stephen Doughty, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth. He is fully supportive of our cause and says he’s keen to meet the V-C to advocate for us.
We have organised a lobby at the National Assembly for Tuesday 13 March. Between 1 and 2, we will be hosted by Julie Morgan and Jenny Rathbone, and we need a great and diverse turnout. Let us know you want to come down, and then let your own representative AM know you’ll be there. The more people we have and from more constituencies, the more effective this lobby will be. Cardiff UCU will put on transport to get us down there, so register your interest now!
Share the word
Meanwhile, we’re back to work tomorrow. Keep strong, keep motivated, and keep talking to your colleagues about the positive spirit we’ve experienced on the lines and the positive results we’ve secured – locally and nationally. UCU membership has been climbing: we’ve had 300 new joins since February. Everybody’s affected by the success or failure of the pension scheme; we improve the changes of success if everybody takes the burden of risk and the decision to fight – to down tools, get to the picket lines, and press for the pension we need.
Inca the Dog looks determined: match her determination. Unless you hear otherwise, we’ll see everyone Monday for Day Ten of the strike.
Cardiff UCU Strike Communications Team