One striking academic said 'It's despicable, absolutely despicable'Daniel Hilton

Thousands marched on Wednesday (01/02), in what some have described as ‘the biggest strike march Cambridge has ever seen’.

It marked the first of eighteen days of planned strikes that will hit Cambridge in February and March during Lent term.

A crowd estimated to be five thousand people strong rallied on Parkers’ Piece before marching to the city centre. As a result of the national mandate through aggregated ballots, striking staff from Cambridge University, Anglia Ruskin and the Open University joined forces. Striking UCU members were also joined by members of the National Education Union (NEU), Cambridge & District Trades Union Council, Unison, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCU), Unite and ASLEF. Postgrads from the ‘Justice4CollegeSupervisors’ campaign were also present, as well as sympathetic students and members of the general public.

Speeches at the rally discussed the cost of living crisis, cooperative action between different unions and cuts to the public sector.

One striking school teacher told Varsity: “Right now, we’re teaching in classrooms that aren’t fit for purpose. We’ve got no money for support staff, no money for resources. I’m not just out here because we can’t go on with current take home pay, I’m also out here because we need better learning conditions for our children – this action is about giving them the education that they deserve.”

Discussing the UCEA’s most recent pay offer, one striking academic told Varsity: “I think it’s despicable, absolutely despicable. Our pay has been hit over and over again over the last ten years. We’re at breaking point.

Meanwhile another striking member said: “It’s definitely far too low, but I actually think the offer is a sign of our strength - I’m not sure we’d have achieved something like this in the past.”

​​Pickets lines were staged at Downing Street, the Education Faculty, Sidgwick site, Senate House and West Cambridge.

The action took place as half a million people went on strike across the country, with teachers, civil servants, Border Force staff and train drivers withholding labor, in what has been branded as the UK’s largest day of industrial action in over a decade.


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Action also coincided with the TUC’s national ‘protect the right to strike’ day, protesting against the governments’ new bill that aims to guarantee minimum service levels from key workers going on strike.

Dean of Emmanuel College Jeremy Caddick attended the protest, telling Varsity: “I’m really worried about the Draconian legislation the government are introducing to limit the right to strike. I think they don’t realize just what they’ve started – unions are getting together and momentum is building. This problem is not one that’s just going to go away.”

In an interview with Varsity, President of Cambridge UCU Michael Abberton said: “None of us want to go on strike, eighteen days is a heck of lot of money to lose, not to mention our members’ concerns about the effect on students. However, we have had no choice, as the offers that we have had, like that from the UCEA, are nowhere near being reasonable or realistic in relation to what our members really need.”