'Never cross the picket line': staff and students speak in solidarity at UCU rally


By Ellie Brown, News Subeditor

Student groups urged for solidarity with staff during the UCU strike rally, which took place outside the Victoria Rooms on the morning of Monday 25 November.

Student campaigners urged students to ‘stand on the picket line’, arguing that crossing it (using university facilities) ‘undermines the work of staff who are giving up eight days of salary.’

Students, staff and UCU members congregated outside the Victoria Rooms | Epigram / Ellie Brown

Speakers at the rally included Bristol students Mary Kirri, Sian Amekeudi and Ruth Day from the Student-Staff Solidarity Group.

Addressing those gathered they said: ‘The Uni wants to create a dichotomy between staff and students, to turn them against each other.

‘Student-staff solidarity is so important when both [students and staff] are under attack.’

Students were encouraged to get involved with the group’s activities, which include daily meetings at 7.30am at Senate House, and supporting picketing staff by bringing them ‘tea, coffee and bakes.’

Paul Bridge, Head of Higher Education at the UCU, also spoke at the rally.

Mr Bridge paid tribute to the students attending the rally, saying ‘yet again the students have proven how strong they are in supporting their staff.’

He encouraged the Vice-Chancellors to ‘join us’ to ‘fix these things that are undermining the sector, telling an outraged crowd that ‘[Union] members’ pay has declined by 18 per cent in the past 10 years.’

One student shouted ‘where’s my money going?’ He was met with loud cries of ‘Hugh Brady!’

Prof. Brady, the Vice-Chancellor, was pictured attending a picket line with striking staff the same morning.

Smoke flares were set off as the rally came to a close | Epigram / Ellie Brown

Dr Lydia Medland, from School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, also spoke highlighting the precarious situation of many hourly-paid teachers at the University, who she estimates make up ‘a quarter’ of total staff.

‘I want longer turnaround times’ she said, recalling an experience of marking 'thirty essays in three days.'

Transparency around contracts, more time for teaching preparation activities, and office space were other demands listed.

The rally ended with a march to College Green led by the Student-Staff Solidarity Group and staff carrying UCU banners.

Featured image: Epigram | Ellie Brown

What are your thoughts on the strike? Let us know!