A lecturer and union official has praised the Mayor of Salford, Paul Dennett and MP for Salford and Eccles, Rebecca Long-Bailey, for joining an online strike at the University of Salford.

Branch Vice President of Salford University and College Union, UCU and Strike Organiser, Dr Umran Ali said Dennett and Long-Bailey’s contributions to the strikes, held on 1-3 December, helped.

He said: “I think it was just their presence having senior politicians, local politicians and people who are connected to the area. Obviously, Rebecca as the MP for Salford and Eccles who has a national profile actively, openly and publicly supporting us is a huge win.”

“Also, I think they really understood the issues. It wasn’t a performative presence. Their understanding and speaking to our members and sharing that sense of solidarity, giving them some sense that they’re not isolated.”

Long-Bailey and Dennett both spoke in the ‘virtual picket’. They addressed the economic stresses facing university staff and offered commendation to those lectures taking part.

“It was a really meaningful act. For them to talk about the issues and understand them shows that we have champions really fighting on our behalf to try and change this, not just for us, but quite importantly for the students out there.”

Dr Ali spoke on what prompted Salford UCU to begin the strike, including conditions university staff faced:

“In my online picket lecture, I spoke about one lecturer who was living in a tent. I mean how horrific is that? Another staff member was sleeping in a library.”

“We’re meant to be inspiring and motivating the next generation… If we’re fighting tiredness, poverty, hunger, we’re not going to be able to give [students] the best value experience.”

The UCU has considered a six-month mandate of Action Short Of a Strike (ASOS) that includes: not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, not undertaking any voluntary activities and a marking and assessment boycott.

“I see this as an ongoing fight. We aren’t fighting just for a pay increase or for extra annual leave. We’re fighting, in some cases, for individuals’ livelihoods”

“Whether or not that means six months of action or the next ten to twenty years, it’s not something that’s going to go away.”

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