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Socialist Students and Socialist Party members have been supporting UCU pickets at Leeds Uni – photo Iain Dalton

After having the highest number of pickets ever, around 200, outside Leeds University on the first day of the strike, over 100 pickets have turned out most days at Leeds Uni determined to press on both the ‘Four fights’ and USS pension scheme disputes.

Leeds Socialist Party members

There’s been a high level of support from other unions with other local unions supporting the strikers, including the Unison branch at thre university providing breakfast for every picket on Monday 2nd December.

On Friday 29th November, Socialist Party member Iain Dalton addressed the strikers on behalf of Leeds TUC who had agreed to donate £200 to the strikes hardship fund.

Socialist Party member Iain Dalton addresses the strike rally on behalf of Leeds TUC- photo Allen Haigh

With around 150 students and staff marching to join the school student climate strike in thr city centre, Iain linked the Vice-Chancellors earning hundreds of thousands of pounds presiding over increasingly universities with over-worked, under-paid and casualised staff, with the way the big energy companies and other polluting industries driving climate change are run to maximise short-term with limited consideration of the long-term needs of people and the planet.

Iain praised UCU for linking up with the climate strikers, pointing to the key role that trade unions and thre workers movement can play in bringing about the necessary changes, bringing the key sectors of the economy into public ownership, and fighting for the democratic control by workers that would allow both universities and industry to be run to meet needs, not the profits of big business.

Strike rally outside the Nexus building – photo Iain Dalton

On the Monday 2nd December, the usually daily rally was held outside the ‘Nexus’ building. This, as one striker told us, “epitomised the marketisation of higher education,” established purely for the needs of business, with lecturers and students both unable to book rooms in the building. The University council was due to meet there, and a noisy rally was held outside.

The combined issues of workload and casualisation have emerged as the key issue for many staff. Many hourly paid staff are scrambling for enough hours to survive, whilst other staff are unable to have any days off in order to get through their workload.

Several strikers told us about how little time they get paid for marking work, with one person telling us they get paid for 20 minutes per 2,000 word essay including giving at least 3 paragraphs of feedback. Another strikers told us how when he was off with flu, the minute he felt able to work again he had to start marking in order to catch up.

Later that day, Socialist Students members joined others in the ‘Students support striking staff’ group in protesting outside Leeds University Union, demanding they reversed their ‘neutral’ stance on the strike and backed LUU. Many students passing the protest were keen to take leaflets and talk about what the strike was about.

Students protest outside LUU calling for support for UCU strike – photo Iain Dalton

Chants of ‘Students and Workers Unite and Fight’, ‘Shame on you, LUU’ and ‘Students not consumers’ drew a crowd and forced one on the sabbatical officers to come out a discuss with protesters.

Morale remains high amongst the strikers, fuelled by support from students as well as the news that Universities UK have agreed to talks on the USS pension scheme, whilst UCEA are also consulting members over the UCU’s ‘Four Fights’ demands including over pay, casualisation and workload.

Staff were very clear on the picket lines and at the rallies that they are fully prepared to take further strike action after the christmas break if needed.