Early this morning we supported the picket lines and engaged in a separate noise demonstration outside University House. We did this not only to express solidarity with striking staff and students taking autonomous action in support of the strike across the country, but also to make the strike as visible and impactful as possible across all sectors of campus.
University House is the focal point for power within the University, housing not only the Vice Chancellor’s Office and the senior management team, but also the departments responsible for the corporate and financial administration of the university. This is a fortress-like space, which has become even more securitized over the course of the strike: doors locked down, teams of security an ever-looming presence, the space insulated from any substantive democratic engagement. The barriers to the car-park today were even lifted such that cars did not have to slow down to engage with the picket lines: more and more barriers are raised to political engagement as the flows of business are eased. It is in this place the massive disparities in salary between the highest and lowest paid staff, the tens upon tens of millions of pounds earned by the senior officials of the university, are concentrated.
As masses of staff are on strike, the operations of these corporate hubs, undermining the potential of the strike, will not go unhindered. We believe that picket lines are not just symbolic, but political boundaries that must be enforced, and that the current legal restrictions imposed on trade union activity are draconian, repressive and unconscionable. In the wake of negotiations re-commencing with UUK today, we believe taking direct action is necessary in order to exercise as much leverage as possible in complement to industrial action.
Though Stuart Croft has opposed the pension reforms publicly – we must recognize this is in itself a result of strong progressive struggles at Warwick over the years. This means maintaining such pressure is essential, especially to demand transparency over what Croft is doing to lobby UUK, to demand that pay is not unfairly deducted due to Action Short of Strike (and indeed industrial action itself), and to demand that any wages docked due to industrial action are redirected into student hardship funds. We have not forgotten that the trade union recognition agreement on campus still does not encompass casualized workers, despite the university administration pledging to fulfil this demand after our occupation of the Slate in late 2016. We have not forgotten that the 6 demands of Warwick Anti-Casualization have still not been fulfilled, that management accumulate ever higher salaries whilst staff lose out on pay, rights and contracts. We have not forgotten that Statute 24 and therefore academic freedom is still seriously under threat.
Collective struggle is how will win not only the pensions dispute but the broader campaign to redistribute power and wealth within our universities and within society at large. We will continue to take action to confront inequality, cuts and exploitation. We agitate for a truly free education, in and beyond this dispute.