After the Online Solidarity Rally
Report to members:
Yesterday’s solidarity rally was a great success, attracting nearly 300 attendees. It was opened by UCU’s General Secretary Jo Grady who praised Brighton members for our proud record of standing up in defence of each other. We were very pleased to receive support from the MP for Brighton Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who drew a connection between our dispute and yet another attack on jobs at neighbouring Brighton Met FE College.
UCU President Vicky Blake entered into the spirit by joining in her winter picketing gear, an idea we want to build on with our virtual pickets next week. She spoke powerfully about the union’s role in confronting the appalling management practices that have spread across higher education.
Charlie and Mark, the two UCU members threatened with redundancy explained just how counterproductive the IT restructure is, while CoCom member Fiona MacNeill, who’s work role had also been at risk, spoke of how the dispute had exposed the hidden, essential labour of IT staff, and of the devastating effects on staff of restructures.
The rally featured strong representation from students led by the impressive President of NUS, Larissa Kennedy. Brighton students spoke passionately in support of staff and against cuts. Brighton PhD student and BLM activist, Annie Whilby, highlighted that students of colour are most likely to be disadvantaged in relation to digital access and IT cuts, while Media student Zulaika Beckford reported on the formation of Student Solidarity Brighton and its open letter to the VC opposing the redundancies which has already been signed by 130 students. Mattie Shannon from the Manchester student occupation raised the roof with her account of how they won an unprecedented 30% rent rebate and her plea for staff-student solidarity.
Independent scholar and blogger Liz Morrish echoed Brighton UCU’s slogan #ChooseHuman by condemning the tendency for marketised universities to favour of buildings, systems and equipment over living labour. The rally expressed support for Brighton Unison’s Ivan Bonsell who voiced his regret that Unison members were not striking with UCU. We know we have their solidarity too. The rally also heard from UCU members involved in disputes at other HE and FE institutions and received support from the UCU Solidarity Movement.
The rally was a humbling display of solidarity for our fight from the rest of our union and beyond. We have a reservoir of support willing us on which is reflected in a surge in donations to our strike fund. We have our own students on our side. These are forces that Debra Humphris cannot ignore.
Images from picket, Wednesday 2 December 2020