UCU members in around 500 institutions took strike action last week as part of a series of parallel disputes over pensions and pay.
UCU branches at many institutions turned out lively picket lines, particularly on Thursday 24 March which saw action across the further and higher education sectors throughout the UK. At Manchester Metropolitan University, management used university security to evict workers from their own picket lines! In a union statement, UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: “I was on the picket line at MMU today and absolutely astounded to have been told by the university's security to leave the premises. I am not aware of anything like this happening elsewhere and I fail to see some leaflets being handed out to staff, students and visitors can be anywhere near as damaging as this incident will be for the university.”
In many places, student activists organised impressive solidarity with their lecturers, with student occupations at Goldsmiths, UCL and Glasgow being used as specific bases for organising strike support. LSE Students' Union organised a mini-festival in support of the strike while London UCU members gathered in the LSE quad before marching to Downing Street. Earlier in the day in London, ESOL teachers had held an action in defence of ESOL provision.
As the first national strike in response to the cuts, the UCU action has enormous significance. Rank-and-file militants inside the union now have to find ways of extending the action, and linking up with other workers moving into struggle.