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Strikes 2020: Day 7… Picketers fit for purpose

Published: 3rd March, 2020

“Let’s get physical” was the theme on the seventh day of the strike at Leicester, or “nous hugieis en somati hugiei” as the ancient Greeks would say (meaning “healthy mind in healthy body”). (Unlike God, we did not rest.) The Union leadership, both at local and national level became an example of that, with UCU’s General Secretary, Jo Grady, warming-up with us before jogging to De Montfort University, to speak to the picketers there.

At the base camp, a blackboard (a real one – not ‘Blackboard’, the proprietary software: ‘we help you leverage innovative technologies & services to solve your most critical challenges in education, not a virtual one’) asked how our working conditions impact on our physical health. The answers ranged from insomnia and nausea to eczema and bleeding, with several other conditions in between. One more issue to strike for, maybe?

The day was made special by the warm and lively presence of our students of today – possible colleagues of tomorrow – who showed their solidarity in various ways: participating in the jogging and other physical activities, adding a (really loud) vuvuzela to the musical instruments so far in use during picketing, and – huge thanks for that! – kindly offering us a professional water warmer and tea-making material to use for the remaining duration of the strike.

Another special feature of the day was our new, freshly made, timely, localised, colourful and very informative leaflet (especially addressed to the students), as was the warm solidarity message we received from the Unite community branch that “unanimously agreed support for the UCU campaign of strike action at Leicester University, De Montfort University and Loughborough University”.

The weather was rather cold; however, our hearts were warm as always, drumming helping a lot for that. Many drums, loud music (let’s not call that ‘noise’ – it’s not proper), but not only. The official-picket-euphonium was present again and matched perfectly with the drum set (played by a student in solidarity) in a creative improvisation that was rewarded with a warm applause.

And, yes, there was also some parading on University Road, where picketers from the Victoria Park base met the colleagues from George Davies Centre and marched together towards Entrance 2, where there was (what else?) more drumming and dancing.

The picketing day culminated at the usual place (Victoria Park entrance), where Gareth Brown, the branch secretary, announced the themes of the next two days of strike: Day 8 – International Solidarity (especially, to striking academics in France and California); Day 9 – Mental Health (to complement today’s physical health theme).

More picketing to come, then, with the strike week to close at the… pub. Thursday, 5 March, all welcome at ‘The Tap’ (Queen’s Road), to “play a song, read from scripture, deliver a polemic”, as the relevant leaflet reads.

See you at the picket line!