Yesterday, as the UCU industrial action stretched into its 2nd week , students and staff gathered outside King’s College London’s Strand campus in a show of solidarity between the Justice for Cleaners campaign and those striking on UCU picket lines.
Many on the picket lines at KCL expressed surprise and optimism about the level of support they have received during the last few weeks.
Music blared from a loudspeaker as passing buses honked to cheers from the gathered crowd. At 12.30, speakers from KCL Justice for Cleaners, who have been in discussions with the university about bringing cleaners in-house, as well as lecturers, graduate teaching assistants, all made brief speeches.
We have got the most serious dispute that UCU has ever called.
They emphasised the importance of the common struggles faced by the cleaning staff and the teaching staff. Stephen Saxby, the Labour party candidate for the boroughs of Westminster and Camden, spoke about the Labour party’s support for the UCU disputes and calling for further solidarity.
UCU president, Joanna de Groot, spoke at the picket line. She told the strikers: “We have got the most serious dispute that UCU has ever called. This is unheard of in the history that I have been part of.”
“It’s bringing people who do not normally come to rallies or stay on picket lines, so it’s telling us, that the concern is a bit bigger than what we might call the usual suspects, the loyal activists.
“The employers are counting on the fact that we will not hang in there. I think we’re all here because we can, we are and we will hang in. Our cause is just, we have a very strong mandate, we have wonderful support. I am thankful and proud that you all are helping us do what we’re doing.”
Lecturers, graduate teaching assistants and students asserted that this dispute was more than just an attack on pensions, but affected students too.
KCL philosophy student Hannah Bondi pointed out, “I do think that what might happen to the pension scheme is an attack on my education, as a student. I’ve been impressed by staff – we’ve had student staff liaison committees, sent around surveys, my lecturers and seminar leaders have offered me support even when striking.
“It’s really quite incredible, they’re carrying out this massive industrial action, but looking out for students. It’s the UUK, and their actions, that are harming me as a student.”
Escalating industrial action is set to continue for another two weeks.
The UCU ‘Defend Education – March for Pensions and Pay’ begins at midday today and will have a student block.
Photo: Picket line outside UUK HQ | Credit: Harvi Chera