Strike Day 14 – Friday 16th March – ‘…pat me down’?!

We made it. Well done everyone. We did it together. Sorry if this blog post ends up a little longer than usual but that was a day and a half. Day 14 was always going to be special for me. I’ve had that YES concert ticket since July last year. But by coincidence it was also this day;

Maria’s 3D placard caught my eye early in the day and it brought home the enormity of what we have achieved. 14 days and still smiling 🙂. The day started early for me at the placard A&E. Day 13 had been wet and our ‘cards took a beating. No way were we showing up at George Sq with tatty placards. A completely new batch was assembled.

I started planning for Day 14 the night before. I contact the student occupation’s man on the outside via Facebook and said, ‘hey, PM me’. Trying to keep the dialogue low key and non-managerial (going forward) would be the secret to establishing contact. The response came within minutes, a secure channel had been established; game on. Were the ‘inside team’ coming on the march? That needed a F2F. We agreed to meet at GU main gate the following morning. Somehow, their guy managed to find me, a raised eyebrow and micro-nod established our respective identities. We headed for the cloisters. As expected; total lock-down. Two guards on the door this morning. I adopted a serious negotiators face and opened with an authoritative, ‘UCU picket supervisor, I need to speak to them’. One of them mumbled something into his lapel. The curly wire running down his neck only added to the gravity of the situation. Almost instantly I sensed a presence behind me. These damn cloisters cast a lot of shadows, had we walked into a trap? I slowly looked round; The COO was right on my shoulder. He didn’t recognise me at first, the high-vis jacket and UCU armband enables me to hide in plain sight. I lowered my hood. We’ve met a few times at committee meetings so I didn’t need ID. He’s looking very smart, I on the other hand am looking decidedly tatty and reeking of picket. I explained that I just wanted to invite the occupation to come on the march. It only took 4 words to get us through the first security check; ‘name’s Duncan, David Duncan’. Moments later we are walking up the grand staircase to the Senate rooms. At the top there is another security check. I’m ushered through. Ahead is the Senate room with it’s main doors firmly closed. Access is via the Carnegie (?) Room which has small door. I can now see the other side of that elaborate knot. Not even Michael Schofield (Prison Break) could figure this one out. There are a further two security guards and I feel a bead of cold sweat run down my back. Is that huge guy going to want to pat me down? No. Phew! I deliver three firm knocks on the access door….and I’m in. The large table in the middle of the room has more laptops than PC world. They seem to be connected together to create some kind of super-computer communication network? Are all the Uni occupations connected and in constant communication? I’m well impressed! We sit round the table and discussions begin…..

Meanwhile, outside, everything is normal;

Perhaps a quieter start than usual but it is raining and we expect this to build a bit before the march. I’m not worried about numbers as by this point I’m confident this is just going to keep growing. I head off to see what’s happening down at the posh gate – remember the halloumi BBQ. In previous strikes (before I was Hon Sec) this was my picket position so I have a fondness for this spot.

Today, it’s Taiwanese Whisky. I must say it’s lovely. Potent, fruity and with a finish of creamy vanilla and forest bluebells. Every day’s an education at that gate. Thanks Olwyn. Time is against me this morning. I spent too long in the Senate room partly because of the interesting chat and partly because it was dry and warm. Now I’m clock watching as we still have to identify sufficient march wardens, distribute high-vis bibs, build the banner and then collect the occupation from the West Quad. Fast forward through lots of frantic manoeuvres and before I know it, it’s 30 minutes till show time when Glasgow’s finest turn up in vans to escort us to the rally. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we would not have taken the march up the stairs 😳

I’m reminded of the Laurel & Hardy film ‘The Music Box’ (the one with the piano). But the guys did a great job. We got in and collected the occupation.

After a wee bit of confusion over which door they were leaving through, they amazingly turned up behind us in the cloisters! How? What? Did they use the cloisters shadows, or more worryingly; have they discovered the underground passages?

With the full team assembled we marched off into town;

The Vanguard was setting a pretty healthy pace. Which is tough work for the banner-men who were carrying a main-sail that could easily service a 36 foot yacht in a light breeze. And so we arrived at exactly the place stipulated by the Glasgow City Council Processions Officer; the North West corner of George Sq where the pavement is bevelled to permit easy access (who knew?). Time for quick photo op.

Good to see at least one student maintaining a stoic struggle face. Wait a minute, is that Ruby our chant leader – ‘hey, hey, ho, ho, these pension cuts…..’ . Ruby played a big part in this action and she deserves a special mention. Thanks.

Great to see Crichton with their new banner. And then the speeches. I didn’t quite catch the first speakers name. I think she said Beyoncé. Full marks to UCU Scotland in securing such a high profile compère though.

We were joined by the Fire Brigade Union, and their rep gave a blistering speech in which she recounted the brazier on the picket-line incident that they were called out to. I can’t help but think there was a missed opportunity for further humour there…

There were another few speakers and then we headed home. The last in word in this though goes to a student. After the rally we got a taxi to take all the placard sticks, bibs and the banner back to the office. 3 of us then headed out for lunch; me, Maggie (the UCUG administrator) and the @UCUG-twitterer (tweeter?). We collected two dead placards from the main gate and kept walking. We were soon approached by a rather flustered looking young student. He asked, ‘is the strike still on?’. We assured him, ‘yes, for the rest of the day’. ‘Oh thank God’, he says, ‘that means I haven’t missed my tutorial’. True story, I have witnesses. Solidarity for ever.

See you all next time.

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UCU Glasgow
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