UCU members at the University of Portsmouth again picketed several buildings during their second two hour strike on Tuesday January 28. The pickets joined together at the Park Building off Guildhall Square for the second hour of the strike so that all told there were around 30 strikers joining the picket and handing out leaflets to students and passers by. One sad consequences of the restructurings and redundancies carried out by the University in recent years is that there were no pickets at the Eldon Building where historically the School of Art & Design was one of the best organised parts of the University.
The strike is in furtherance of a pay dispute involving rejection of the employers’ pay offer of 1% which, of course, in real terms is not an offer of more pay but an offer of a pay cut. The utility of 2 hour strikes is debatable though, of course, all union members should support them. However, lecturers who say they see no point in striking for 2 hours have the opportunity next Thursday February 6 to show they are prepared to take action to secure a fair pay deal by participating in rather more effective active as UCU has decided to join the one day strike called by UNISON and EIS (in Scotland). Whatever happens in Portsmouth this strike has the potential for shutting down Higher Education for the day in various parts of the country.
All university unions now need to act together to bring about a joint escalation in strike action. In Portsmouth, there is a need to establish a strike committee representing all the campus unions to ensure that action taken in the future weeks and months has a real and not just a symbolic impact. It is also necessary to link the fight for fair pay with the fight against tuition fees to provide the basis for lecturers, other university workers and students acting together to combat the attack on Higher Education which is the on-going consequences of the privatisations and cuts implemented by the Blair/Brown governments and intensified by the ConDems.