Strike Action in Week 1 – We Stand Strong

You will have received an email from UCU Central on Friday. We, Keele’s UCU Branch Committee, do not have time to call an EGM on its contents, and anything less would not engage sufficiently with our members. So we are writing to you with our agreed decision: the UCU General Secretary has opened the door to withdrawal from the strike in Week 1; we hereby firmly close it.

Over the summer we fought for the campaign to improve our pay and conditions. Some of us boycotted our marking and assessment duties, others gave of our salaries to support them. However, our senior managers did not believe that our pay and conditions should be improved, and they punished us for daring to ask for it. At a time when the cost of living is becoming less tenable for so many, our senior managers cut thousands of pounds from our salaries and wages.

The national situation remains unchanged. And yet, as a branch, we won. We took care of our own, working together to ensure that those who lost money were recompensed to a significant degree. And we have a clear sign that our senior managers do not care about the university’s academic reputation, because they devalued our degrees in order to subvert the MAB, deaf to the condemnation of staff and external examiners. They do not care about us, they only wish to control us, keep us down, pay us as little as possible, and increase our precarity where they can.

So we will not seek to withdraw from the upcoming strike. We honour the sacrifices of so many of our members over the summer, and we celebrate our renewed sense of purpose. The punishments meted out by our senior managers have tempered us, hardened us to the realities of our situation. Our boycott was truly effective: our managers panicked and reacted erratically. We know now that we, as a branch, constitute a weapon to be wielded against them; we have learned how to use that weapon, and we stand ready to do so again, more effectively, in the future.

When UCU declared the end of the MAB, our managers breathed a sigh of relief. They wished only to draw a line under it, and did not seek to identify those who had boycotted reassessment marking in August, or to take their pay. Our managers are exhausted by our actions over the summer. We want to show them that we are nowhere near spent. We call all our members to stand together on strike in Week 1. Come out, meet your friends and comrades, look into each other’s faces and recognise there our collective successes and our ability to make a difference.

We now see a glimmering possibility: that we can force our senior managers to do what we ask of them, whether in the national ‘four fights’ or locally, tackling Keele’s own problems. Let’s take this chance to grow together in strength and solidarity.