Published: 27th February, 2020
David and Gabby, two departmental reps, celebrate both Leicester UCU’s caseworkers and everyone who is supporting past and present UCU strikes.
Thank you to everyone participating in the current strike – and to those who’ve struck before. The strength of the action depends on the solidarity of members, as we come together to advocate on behalf of colleagues to management. It is through the core principles of empathy and solidarity that Leicester UCU works tirelessly to support our 1000-odd members.
As we stood on the picket line, we reflected on the numerous union members Leicester UCU’s tireless committee members and caseworkers have supported in the past, and the members that they will support in the future – on a countless variety of issues. Some of our lucky members joined UCU many years ago, have paid their subs diligently ever since, and have never needed any targeted support. Thank goodness for that. We sincerely hope that your working life is made easier from the knowledge that should anything go wrong, UCU will do everything in its power to help you.
Some colleagues joined the union only when they were in trouble. Their request for promotion was turned down. Their line-manager suddenly started threatening performance-management procedures. Their workload became too much and they had nowhere else to turn. And Leicester UCU supported them – immediately. Our branch is really good like that – in some branches there’s a waiting period. Diligent caseworkers – all volunteers, for the most part doing this work in addition to their normal tasks – helped organize thoughts and paperwork. They went to meeting and argued passionately on the member’s behalf. They bought coffees and offered tissues. In short Leicester UCU did everything it could. We won’t claim to win every battle, but we always give 100%. And often we make a real improvement in the member’s working life: colleagues are regraded; performance management procedures are lifted; the thread of redundancy disappears.
A strike is different from this type of individual support. If our action is not sufficiently collective, it isn’t action – or, at least, it isn’t meaningful action. A strike cannot succeed if we all make different individual decisions – if some choose to strike, but others do not. The loss of a very small number of strikers maybe won’t hurt much. But once a few let it be known that they won’t strike, others start to think: why should I do it, why should I lose salary, especially when I’ll still benefit from a more secure future if we win?
All this brings us back to this our recent strikes – in February/March 2018 and November/December 2019 – and the one we’re in the midst of right now. We want to extend a big THANK YOU! to all the members who sang, danced, cheered and generally demonstrated their support. You might not feel that all the issues we’re disputing directly affect you. But we know you understand that other members are deeply harmed by low-pay, by precarity, by gender and other pay gaps, by unsustainable workloads, by diminishing pensions. We look forward to your support in forthcoming industrial actions – and promise to stand by you every day of your working life.