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June 20th, 2017:

Strike action today

Today we picketed all the main entrances and buildings in the University including Crewe, in Manchester from 7am. We talked to many sympathetic colleagues who work in administrative jobs, including Unison members, who are extremely concerned about colleagues in Crewe, and the prospect of possible redundancies in Manchester.  I gave interviews to the Manchester Evening News, Key 103 Radio, and Talk TV; Crewe Chronicle spoke to colleagues at Crewe; and Martyn Moss for UCU talked to ITV, and BBC radio Manchester.  Student supporters came to back us up – but we did not have to persuade UCU members to turn round, or to support the strike. Only non-members seemed to be going into work. Support like that tomorrow, Wednesday, will really help to make our point. Our rally in the Deaf Institute was inspiring, with protest songs from Crewe-based music lecturer Pete Dale, in great voice despite the imminent threat of redundancy, and speeches from our General Secretary Sally Hunt, Adam Ozanne Branch Secretary of the University of Manchester, Nik Wigmore of the NUT, an MMU postgraduate student, and John Deeney, MMU UCU rep from Crewe;  all ably MC’d by Lucy Burke for the branch committee.

In an earlier strange encounter, along with a student supporter I crossed paths with the Vice Chancellor Malcolm Press and DVC Jean-Noel Edzingeard on their way into a senior staff team meeting. The Vice Chancellor offered to take a leaflet from me; and then all our leaflets.  I said how disappointed we were that we had not had a message offering to open meaningful talks with us.  The Vice Chancellor had nothing new to add, not even a chink of light.  I was, though, able to introduce him to one of our postgrad students, who applied to us as a mature student with limited qualifications – below the entry tariff –  and first in his family to even consider a University education – on the basis of an outstanding selection of original creative writing; who went on to take a first class degree; and is now taking an MMU masters course with a view to studying for a PhD.  Exactly the sort of student who stands to lose out if the management cuts places and ups entry tariffs.

So it is not only for the sake of our colleagues that we picket the Open Day tomorrow Wednesday, to get our message out to prospective students and their families – and passers by.  We believe that to drop those compulsory redundancies and invest in the staff, is part of a sustainable academic future for MMU; one which privileges the quality of tuition and the value of the student experience in our University, alongside true respect for all its members.

Decent working conditions and job security should be the measure of every University for any applicant.

And open argument and debate is what coming to University is all about.  Including on an open day!

If you are a member of UCU at MMU, and you have not yet been down to the picket lines, please come.  Picketing tomorrow from 7am; open day event from 10m at All Saints, Manchester.  Just bring yourself  and your passion for our cause.

If you are a supporter – we would love to see you there.

In solidarity,
Julie Wilkinson
MMU UCU Branch Chair