Over (part 1)…….. but certainly not out

Today saw the last of the current UCU strike days in the on-going HE unions’ dispute with management over the unacceptably meagre salary increase of approximately 5 percent being imposed on all staff.

Ironically, while university sector chiefs are expecting staff with higher than ever workloads to do more for less, official inflation figures indicated a further rise in the yearly cost of living up to 10.4 percent for the twelve months ending February 2023

While our pickets endured frostbite like conditions last week, and dreich conditions earlier this week, today brought storm like winds as part of a yellow weather warning – but failed to daunt our spirits – or uproot our gazebo, which was well tied down.

Our reballot finishes on the 30th and we’ll be meeting soon after that to consider next steps.

Some pictures from today’s picket below:

At least there was no rain…
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A love song to Education from the UCU…..

Just a snippet of some of the energy, joy and determination on the UCU picket line this month and last

Our Vice Present elect Karen Lorimer has done a marvellous job above, encapsulating just some of the moments the branch shared on the picket line during the current period of dispute. Below are some of today’s photos as well. Tomorrow (Wednesday 22nd March) is the end of the current round of strikes as we wait for the result of the reballot about possible action over the next six months.

We’re still in dispute however, so if you haven’t posted your ballot – please do this week – you want your voice to count!

And of course….. all are welcome to tomorrow’s final picket in this part of the dispute – hope to see you there!

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Another University is Possible……

Some images from the lively teach in held in the Students Association building

Another university is possible – one that really does live the values of the ‘common good’ but is also one where a new generation of students is created – a generation that lives our values, debates them with staff, and helps ‘co-create’ a curriculum that helps change Scotland, the UK and indeed the planet in this time of Climate Emergency.

Dr Ben Shepherd, of History/ Social Sciences department, Dr Gill Murray, Yunus Centre, and Laura Yapp, 2nd year Social Science student and member of Student Solidarity engaged their audience of staff and students with three short talks, which were so interesting that the conversations were still going after we had finished our allotted hour slot in the Student discussion space in the Students Association building, and had to take the conversations upstairs to the coffee space. (Thanks to Ewan Kerr for organising this!)

Ben as usual, used his encylopeadic knowledge of history and some great insights into what universities should do to help create democratically active citizens. His particular interest was how to help create a new generation of informed students willing and able to intervene positively into society to promote progressive values

Gill looked at the lessons of the Covid pandemic and quoted three quite frightening facts. Firstly,  that age standardised deaths were twice as hight for those living in the poorest 20% of the population than those living in the richest 20%. (As we know, GCU recruits more students from this first group, than any other Scottish university – apart from the University of the West of Scotland). Secondly that digital poverty became a severe barrier to poorer communities were there was a turn to on-line teaching during the pandemic – again something experienced by our staff’s observations.Thirdly that existing inequalities were exacerbated with a stalling of mortality improvements – with 300 thousand excess deaths caused due to austerity policies (figures from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health).

Laura, finished off by describing how relentless work (and FOIs) had unearthed the fact that although GCU direct investment in Fossil Fuels and other undesirable areas may have finished in 2017, indirect investment in this area had continued and was only drawing to a close now. Watch this space for further information on this soon.

This all followed a very collegiate, if also very dreich picket earlier in the morning where we said hello to three paramedics, Logan, Chloe and Phil, some of whom were student members of the union. Ben Shepherd was interviewed by the GCU postgrad journalists, on the Teach-In – (many thanks Ben). However, we missed Karen and Catriona’s usual uplifting Spotify playlists, and were left with granddad’s choice from myself till Suzanne stepped in to bring a bit of quality back.

Will see you all tomorrow and Wednesday at the main gate from 8!

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Hope to see you at the Picket…. And the Teach In

Following on from the tremendous support from GCU students during the UCU (and EIS….and Unison) pickets, the local UCU branch have organised a Teach-In on Monday 20th March, immediately following our picket. Hope to see you there.

The UCU strike action is continuing and we’ll have pickets Monday 20th, Tuesday 21st and Wednesday 22nd this week

On Tuesday at 11 am, following the picket, we’ll be having a discussion for members on the next steps for the strike. This will be in the students union building, and we look forward to seeing you there if you’re in the vicinity.

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No ifs….and definitely no butts……

A strange thing happened on our latest UCU picket this morning (Wednesday 15th). A key point of the UCU Four Fights Campaign has been to demand action is taken to end the gender pay gap – which we don’t think the university sector is taking seriously enough.

As we were setting up the UCU picket, a member of GCU senior management (as they crossed our picket line), raised an issue with us regarding gender which was that management believed gender issues should be taken seriously and therefore…….. we should take down our poster (see CaledonianUnion passim and our image above) which was encouraging passing cars to express support for our cause, but ……. apparently might be interpreted as sexist.

Hmm… always wishing to take the extra step for positive consensus, the poster was ‘amended’ as seen above. Is it too much to ask however that perhaps tomorrow there might be reciprocal action one would hope from GCU to get UCEA to actually move on the issue of the gender pay gap? We can’t hold our breath too long – last week the United Nations secretary-general warned at the start of a major women’s conference that at the current pace, gender equality is projected to be 300 years away.

We need the sector to move beyond ‘performative’ positions and achieve real change.

Our President Catriona Mowat, put the point on the STUC’s twitter feed today:

Today was also the first ‘unveiling’ of our new Workloads are unsustainable banner, since the successful joint union meeting last week for staff in Nursing and Community Health.

At the meeting , speakers from UCU, EIS and Unison heard the worries of staff regarding workload and how this affected their professionalism and also in their view Health and Safety due to the inability to properly upskill and improve CPD due to pressures of increased workload and admin. This will be taken further in the weeks to come

Last week’s successful joint union meeting for staff in Nursing and Community Health is the first of several to take place, looking at the issue of excessive workloads.

The joint unions are currently discussing lodging a local joint claim for urgent action in this area

Just a couple of photos from today’s picket – including a visit from striking PCS workers, and Dave Moxham Deputy General Secretary of the STUC. More photos and reports from the picket line tomorrow.

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A nice way to end the (picketing) week…

As well as a long on-line interview on the Scotsman’s Video page (see below, or directly here), the UCU@GCU picket had the young team in action again today, helping their parents spread the message for fair pay.

And again – our students augmented with new faces, gave us so much support (before disappearing to add solidarity to another demo that was apparently taking place at Glasgow City Square)

And here’s a few more of the picket line at the main gate just after that (apologies to Ben and colleagues who were covering some of the other entrances)

We had the opportunity to have a brief chat with the Principal and with Meg Lustman, the Vice Chair of Court as they entered to attend today’s Court meeting. They noted that today’s meeting would not be attended by the academic staff reps, the Senate Rep and both TU reps, who didn’t think it appropriate to attend the meeting, given it was a UCU strike day.

We put the points to them about the need to change management’s original draconian intention to deduct strike pay in two huge lump sums, rather that staggering this which had always been the practice at GCU. We also argued that irrespective of the UK level wage negotiations – still at ACAS, for a third day currently, immediate action could be taken on workload at GCU – which is a key and consistent issue for all staff, given we have the third worst (ie third highest) student staff ratio out of all the Scottish universities.

We were assured this was being listened to seriously, so we will be looking out for action in these areas, while we continue to campaign for a better pay deal for all staff.

Unless there’s a breakthrough, the UCU will be back out putting our message across next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

STOP PRESS INTERVIEW – The Scotsman also came to the picket line and interviewed Douglas Chalmers today’s Picket Supervisor. You can see the video below:

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Why does it always rain on me….?

By Travis helped keep wet spirits up as the new Gazebo (see caledonianunion passim) was set up and ready for a wet day of picketing.

A (clearly) unrehearsed version of Travis’s song helped set us up for the day

As always, students were out to help, and Louisa Richardson, the Students union women’s officer brought along some new customised stickers and also took away one of our new placards to laminate against the Scottish weather – many thanks

We also had a welcome visit from Richard Leonard MSP – former leader of Scottish Labour and a long time supporter of the unions in Higher Education. He even posed for a photo in the rain. Made of strong stuff these politicians.

After the picket a few of us defrosted in the Students Association, while we planned future linked activity, including a TeachIn at lunchtime on one of the striking days, a ‘bake-off’ competition (sorry EIS, but UCU think we’ve won that one hands down), and some all union activity around workloads in the nursing department. And just to show not everything’s union focussed, here’s a pic of some of us, listening to the statement from Nicola Sturgeon resigning as First Minister (now there’s a good topic for a teach-out discussion!)

The UCU will see you all on the picket line tomorrow (Thursday). As always any help appreciated!

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Love was in the air…..but pay still wasn’t fair

We were joined in force by the Young Team today, including Piper and Asher, who made sure everyone knew that this strike was a family affair. Despite a tremendous Valentines Spotify Playlist by UCU President Catriona Mowat there was no obvious melting of the hearts at GCU management and pickets were left awaiting news from the ACAS talks which have been going on all day yesterday and today

The strategy of distributing sweets to GCU students certainly had an impact however

The picket line as always was solid and good humoured

As always we got some tremendous support from passing cars, augmented by our own whistles (thanks David!)

This was the first of two days joint action between UCU and EIS, which will be followed by UCU holding the fort so to speak on Thursday.

A final short video from a star of the show, who seemed to appreciate some good music and had a great time.

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Glad you joined the show…. and how was breakfast?

Cleaners and security guards had been on the picket lines from Unison from 6.30 am

Given that the Unison cleaning staff had been on the picket line since 6.30 this morning (and similarly the two days before), it wasn’t surprising that UCU members arriving only at 8 am were greeted with friendly statements of the nature of ‘Glad you did decide to join the show eventually….’ and enquiries like ‘so how was your breakfast this morning’?

Nothing as good as good humour to brighten up a Scottish morning

This good humoured rivalry continued throughout the morning although the provision of a UCU Gazebo, some teas and coffees and some cracking Spotify playlists did have the cleaners and UCU members dancing about on the pavements outside GCU. It was that sort of picket – lots of laughter and enjoyment, but also determination that our spirits wouldn’t be dampened despite our employers current failure to come up with the goods.

Dancing to ‘What’s Going On’ – exactly what we’ve been asking management

The UCU had it’s new student facing leaflet (although Unison claimed their union flags put our printed word to shame). Roz Foyer the General Secretary of the Scottish TUC, was diplomatic as always in cross union issues, allowing herself to be photographed holding a placard from each union together.

On the left, Roz Foyer the General Secretary of the Scottish TUC, was diplomatic as always in cross union issues, allowing herself to be photographed holding a placard from each union together. Davena from Unison on the right. UCU took the photo….

Again we must mention that the student turnout was terrific – in fact it was the best it had been with 8-10 additional student faces who had come to join us, one bringing cakes for the pickets.

Overall we judged it at times to be an even better turnout in terms of numbers than the joint UCU/EIS picket line of last week (but watch this space when the joint UCU/EIS picket line reappears next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday).

A great turnout again from staff at GCU

The weather was generally kind overall except for what will be known in future as the ‘Gazebo incident’ when the failure of one of the UCU members (OK I confess it was myself) to anchor two of the legs of the Gazebo with our weights almost gave the concept of a ‘flying picket’ a new reality due to the wind.

No damage was done, and Wilbur the dog, brought along by one of the UCU’s green reps, looked on in amusement as the humans held the gazebo firmly in position until the weights were re-attached.

Wilbur watching the Gazebo almost flying away…..

Two GCU journalism students who had just finished interviewing pickets for their ‘Newsdays’ assignment (we seem to have provided ‘copy’ for at least 20 students studying various media orientated topics over the last half a dozen pickets), just missed the Gazebo incident as well, which they thought was a pity in terms of a ‘scoop’ for their footage.

We had great support again from the public – this has been a really heartening aspect of the picket lines – it was quite deafening some times as the cars, taxis and lorries, reacted to our new ‘Honk Strike, Honk Strike’ placards ( thanks Alice and Sarah).

We did some short vox pops with the new students who had appeared and which you can listen to below.

Eilidh and Blair – 2nd year social science: “We’re going to miss 5 weeks of classes because our lecturers are on strike and I want to be able to support our staff so that they get fair pay and we get a better learning experience….. Please consider the demands….. It’s really important expecially during these hard times

‘We’re here to show solidarity with out lecturers….give them what they’re due. To management we’d say ‘Listen to your workers and pay more… give them a fair wage’

Students showing their vocal support

Our general message to management remains – watch this space. We’re not going anywhere soon. As our banner over the large GCU – University for the Common Good Stone at the entrance reads “Our working conditions are your teaching conditions.” We want to make both much better.

Getting praise doesn’t put food on the table – higher wages helps!
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More than all right on the night.

Unison@GCU take the extra step for fair pay@GCU

Scotland the Brave, followed by Pretty Peggy O, were the tunes accompanying Unison’s march out at midnight on Sunday

At a time when most staff were either in bed or heading there, GCU security guards joined other Unison members at the change of shift, and marched out for fair pay, making the point that many of us miss – that some of our staff work all through the night to ensure the campus is safe for all – and do this on low pay.

Accompanied in solidarity by Glasgow list MSP Paul Sweeney the staff symbolically marched to the front gate, where they heard a short address from local Unison president Davena Rankin, before heading home, for a few hours of sleep prior to returning to the picket line at 6.30 am – the time when many cleaning staff – most members of Unison, would be expected to normally clock in.

Here are some of the pictures from the Midnight walk out:

Before heading home, Davena Rankin, and some other hardy souls told CaledonianUnion why they believed their cause was just, and what they believed could be done about it.

Davena Rankin, President of Unison at GCU told us why they were out at midnight

Why are we on strike at midnight? Midnight is when our workers work. Security work 24:7 and we’re here because we think they deserve a pay rise, as all staff do…. we are there for our members. We’d say to management ‘You’ve got the money in the bank, cough up, give us a decent pay rise’

Some of the security guards spoke to us regarding why they had joined the strike:

Our message to management is ‘Just be Fair.’ Davena’s talked about what we’re dealing with on a daily basis. All we want is just a bit of fairness – not anything we’re not due, but just some fairness….’

These sentiments were echoed by another two security guards who after asking management to pay up, explained that they were not out on strike because they wanted to, but rather because they needed to

‘I think, after lots of years of austerity and low pay…. there’s a time when enough’s enough and we really need to keep up with the cost of living……. We’re not doing this because we want to, we’re doing this because we need to’.

Glasgow list MSP Paul Sweeney came along to support the strike, and was kind enough to give us a few words as to why this struggle was important for working people.

‘Workers across our country are facing a real terms pay cut. It means we’re getting poorer as a country, it means we are getting poorer as a society….. It’s time that workers who are able to use their collective power through their trade unions drive the balance of power back in favour of the waged economy and make sure they get their fair share…..’

Twelve hours later, some of the same hardy souls were back on the picket line, having joined again at 6.30, with others adding to their numbers till 1 pm.

We asked Davena whether she’d had any sleep at all, and how the picket line had been seen by the public and the students.

‘We’ve been out again since 6.30 since that’s when our cleaners start, and they need our support. Our cleaners are the lowest paid workers in the university. Students have been really good with us. The Students Association actually came down and delivered tea and coffee about half an hour ago…. they support the staff because they know we support them.’

The staff represented at the demo ranged from those who had been at GCU for up to twenty years plus, to those who had just started, but who supported the action. Eilish was on her first picket, and had been at GCU for just three months. However she was happy to explain why she supported this action

‘This is my first picket, having been at the GCU for three months, since November. the turnout’s really good, it’s really good to see the turnout from colleagues and students as well. What I’d say to management is ‘engage with the union, and listen to its demands, because people cannot afford to live on the pay rise being offered to staff at the moment… just give us a pay rise we can afford to live on….’

Jonathan and Jimmy were another two young members of the picket line who had been at GCU for 3 and 7 years, and who explained why they were supporting this action

‘You can see the turnout here from all the support staff, because obviously this means a lot to many people…… I’d say to management, ‘you’ve got the money, so you know the right thing to do.’

Finally another group of Unison members asked that management ‘come back and listen’

‘The turnout’s been great, there’s been so many people at the picket line, and people passing by, students… a lot of support. To management we’d say ‘I just hope you’ll come back and listen and consider giving us a fair pay rise…’

Regional MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy (who was an alumni of the university) supported the picket and also spoke to those there (see below), However before that, she shared why she had joined the picket line, with Caledonianunion.

‘People who are working in support roles in Universities and Colleges across the country, make the building and the structures around it work. Without them, libraries, don’t open, there will be no admin, and students won’t get the education they need…… I sincerely hope management will consider a much better offer in the very very near future…….’

At the end of the first day of strike action by Unison this week – they will be out tomorrow and also later in the week, the picket was addressed by UCU President Catriona Mowat, Unison Scottish convenor Lilian Macey and finally MSP Pam Duncan Glancy. Below you will find an edited video of their points.

UCU brings you a message of solidarity….we are in this fight with you. Despite whatever management says, your absence will be causing disruption in there – so it’s important that you know that

Catriona Mowat, President UCU @ GCU

Your fight is sending a clear message that we will not stand by and watch our pay go down, down and down. We will fight for a decent standard of living for our families and ourselves. We want the ability to make sure that our children get food on the table. I know the value of this institution. As a graduate of Glasgow Caledonian University, I saw the value of the whole team here in terms of delivery of the high quality of education that I got. It’s time for this institution to wake up and realise that we will not stand by and see your standard of living drop…. enough is enough

Lilian Macey, Scottish Convenor, Unison (and graduate of GCU)

Often women and disabled people really rely on the support that goes around about the education system, and that comes with the university. Without that, without every one of you working in the jobs you are in, we would not be able to get an equal education. So the jobs you do is absolutely essential to the work of this university and you should never forget it

Pam Duncan Glancy MSP (and graduate of GCU)

Stop Press: We would like to positively acknowledge the fact that our new Principal Professor Stephen Decent has visited the lines three times – including once at 6.45 am. We are glad he is open to discussions with staff here, and we hope he will make his voice heard with UCEA

We hope management will listen to the voices here, and the voices that will continue to speak out, until there’s a reasonable offer made

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