Stories from the picket line

Thank you all for your incredible solidarity over the 14 days of the strike. With your teach-outs, baked goods, music, conversations, and picketing in the rain / hail/ wind/ occasional sunshine, we have stood together and have made our voices heard.

We continue to fight the dispute, but as a committee we are massively impressed and inspired by the support and determination of our branch members over the last few months.

Check out this video made by Sophie Chester-Nash, ‘Stories from the picket line’

And this video made by Mark Jago to mark our branch’s celebration of International Women’s Day, ‘Striking is a feminist issue’

POSTPONED: Rally at Jubilee, Friday 13th March

Our end-of-strike rally will be postponed until the risks posed by coronavirus have abated. The decision of whether or not to continue with pickets has been devolved to the Branch and these will proceed as planned, though individual members are encouraged to use their judgment before joining a picket line. In particular, if you have a cough that is persistent or new, or have a temperature of 37.8 degrees or higher, please follow the Chief Medical Officer’s advice and stay at home for at least seven days.

The decision of whether or not to proceed with picketing has not been taken lightly, but collectively we have been through heck of a lot over these past four weeks and it is important that we are able, as much as individual circumstance allows, to come together on the picket line for the last day of strike action. It is also important for us to publicly mark our strike action given that the University remains open.

On being the #runningpicket, the #knittingpicket and an APM UCU member: Strike Diary Entry, March 9, 2020

IWD Rally at UP South. Photo by @ThomDavies

Today’s entry comes from Lisa Rull, Specialist Study Support Tutor (Disabilities)

When the dates came around for this current period of strike action, I knew what I wanted to do. With a half marathon coming up, I wanted to use some of the time to get miles on my legs in daylight. As a crafting addict, I also wanted to get a few extra rows on my knitting projects! Activism and craftivism!

Our Running picket at UP South

I started the strike as the #knittingpicket on West Gate on Thursday 20 February – this worked well until the skies opened (imperfectly timed for the rally and speeches!) and along with all those there I became a #soggypicket. I decided the next day would be running so I headed out taking a long route from home to North Gate, then East Gate and South Gate and West Gate. What I have loved about visiting the different picket lines is getting to say hello and chat to colleagues, students and fellow striking staff with whom I might never normally get chance to converse. So far across my various picket runs and walks I’ve clocked up approximately 45.5 km (28.2 miles). I know that distance could take me to Sutton Bonington and back, but apologies to SB I’ve not made it to you along the country roads! (I’ve been to all the other gates, including KMC and the three at Jubilee). I’ve interspersed being #runningpicket with both #knittingpicket days and also much needed rest days.


I’ve learnt through hard experience that I need to listen to my body and my mind and take care of both. (Cancer does that to you). Our #fourfights strike action is at the heart of how being a UCU member supports me to do this, even when my work at the University makes that so difficult. We need to break the gender pay gap, address inequality, make workloads manageable, challenge casualisation and precarity, and seek fair pay for all. It is also key to our #USS strike action for fair pensions. We have paid into it. It is deferred pay. We deserve it.

UP West

We’ve broken ourselves with our labour for University, and we don’t want to see it disappear at the point we need it most. We need our next generation of staff to have the opportunity for a fair pension, not one subjected to active destruction tactics by USS and UUK, whose valuations and resulting rising contributions are making it impossible for our precarious colleagues to join (pension or rent is not a choice anyone should have to make).

I’ve been around University of Nottingham since early 2000, first as a PhD student and then for the last 16 and a half years working to support the learning of disabled students at UoN. Although I teach, mostly but not exclusively 1-1, I’m therefore in the slightly odd position of being APM but involved in teaching; am part of professional services, but intimately involved with the learning experience of our students.

UP North

This is a #notjustlecturers strike but the challenges of taking strike action from within Student Services should not be underestimated. So many staff have been on the frontline of the chaos wrought by Project Transform and its ongoing effects on our colleagues and students. I want my colleagues to join UCU and support the union in challenging the way HE has behaved in recent years (and thank you to those who have).

IWD at UP North

There is a better way. Solidarity to all, for all!

Teach-outs and events this week: 9 – 13 March

Monday 9th March

Rally for International Women’s Day (IWD)

South Entrance Picket, 10.30am. All other pickets will pack up around 10. There will be short speeches and we’ll be filming a short video to highlight our feminist strike. Please bring ideas/make signs in response to ‘This IWD I’m calling on the UoN to…” [equal pay/an end to casualisation/fair pensions] etc.

Teachout: Casualisation and the University

Join the University of Nottingham Anti-Casualisation campaign group for an open discussion on how outsourcing and precarious working conditions are affecting many of us across campus, and how we can organise to fight against it!

1 – 3 pm. Dunkirk Community Centre, Montpelier Road NG7 2JW

Tuesday 10th March

Poetry Reading: Peter Gizzi, Sarah Hayden, and Alan Baker

Acclaimed US poet Peter Gizzi reads his latest work, alongside two poets based in Nottinghamshire, Sarah Hayden and Alan Baker.

7pm, Five Leaves Bookshop, 14a Long Row W, NG1 2DH

Event is free for striking UCU members. Otherwise £4/£2 students. Admission includes refreshments.

Wednesday 11th March

Teachout: ‘Black Holes and Extra Dimensions’ Antonio Padilla, School of Physics
and Astronomy

10am, South Entrance Picket

Thursday 12th March

Teachout: ‘Don’t follow your passion! Creative work, self-exploitation, and dangerous myths’ Leora Hadas, School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

10am, North Entrance Picket

Friday 13th March


Bring your noisemakers and placards! A march will start from West Picket, picking up other pickets on our way to Jubilee. Estimated timings:

10.00 West Picket; South Picket 10.20; North Picket 10.40; arriving Jubilee Derby Road 11.00

The sun is out: Strike Diary Day 8

Today’s entry comes from Lila Matsumoto, Equalities Officer

Instead of taking my usual roadside route to the university, I decide this morning to cycle along the canal path. It’s before 7am and the path is not yet busy with walkers and cyclists. Instead I see coots, moorhens, mallards, swans, and pigeons partaking their morning ablutions. The light is beautiful on the water. I think of a poem by Denise Riley : ‘A cloud rose on the horizon of the morning/ with a plume like the breath of a whale at sea’.

A strike is not a holiday, but it is a pause from work. And in this pause I find my mind, freed from the relentless deluge of administrative emails and forms, becoming more expansive in its receptivity to the world. Standing on the picket line has given me new familiarity with the weather system outside of my office, and to animal life too: the herons that pass overhead South picket on their way to the boating lake, the dogwalker leading her gaggle of yapping miniature dogs at 8am. I am tuning in to the things that are happening every day, outside of the narrow margins and preoccupations of my workplace.

As other members have spoken about in their blog entries, a great perk of the picket line is meeting and speaking to people you would not have otherwise met, cloistered as we are in our departmental halls and buildings. Today I met members from Pharmacy, Maths, Psychology, and Art History (I am in English). We talked about, among other things, feelings of fragmentation and social isolation within schools and departments, as a result of exponentially increasing workloads and doing away of communal social spaces and events. Against this trend, the picket line, teach-outs and events organised during the strike are experimental spaces of learning and socialising meaningfully with our colleagues.

The sun is out today, and I am happy to be in it, rather than just as a glimpse from my office window. Standing in the sun with my colleagues gives me pause to understand the extent to which we have acclimatised, at the expense of our well-being, to the unsustainable demands and conditions of our workplace. It has created a sense of myopia about our labour – perhaps even a solipsistic sense of its utter importance – disconnecting it from other forms of engaging with the world.