Last updated 21st November 2022
Picketing will take place every strike day from 9:30am to 1pm unless otherwise stated. There are two main pickets at the the Queens Building and East Gate entrances on the Mile End campus. You can find the main picketing locations on the map below. There will also be other picketing locations at the Graduate Centre entrance on Bancroft Road, the Garrod Building and the Blizard building on the Whitechapel campus, Dept W, and Lincoln’s Inn Fields. If you have not agreed to go to the other picketing locations with a group of colleagues, come to the main pickets on the Mile End campus to make sure you will be together with other picketers. While we encourage as many pickets as possible, it is important that colleagues are able to picket alongside each other. If you want to set up a picket outside any QMUL campuses, contact a picket supervisor to arrange any support such as leaflets, placards and banners.
Find information about specific questions about picketing in the picket line guidance provided below.
- What is the picket for?
- What is/is not behind the picket line?
- Supplies/What to bring
- Engaging with colleagues
- Engaging with students
- Picket alongside colleagues wherever possible
- Inclusive picketing
- Picketing and the law
- Picket supervisors
- Starting the picket
- Closing the picket
What is the picket for?
Picketing/demonstrating outside a building or entrance can serve any or all of three main purposes:
- trying to persuade colleagues not to cross
- making the existence and strength of the strike visible
- handing out leaflets/talking with staff and students
What is/is not behind the picket line?
All buildings where UCU-eligible staff work are considered behind a picket line on strike days. Some campus spaces are not behind the picket line:
- The UCU office
- The Chaplaincy
- Student Union spaces
- Student residences
- Bathrooms (try to use those in the above spaces)
Supplies/What to bring
Picketing supplies will generally be available from pickets at the Queens Building entrance at Mile End, but can also be stored elsewhere. The crucial supplies are:
- Leaflets/flyers to hand out
- Armbands to distinguish picketers
Picketers themselves should also bring:
- good-quality outerwear, preferably both waterproof and insulated
- plenty of layers to add/remove as needed
- comfortable but hard-wearing boots or shoes – walking boots are ideal
- hats, scarves and umbrellas as needed
- a thermal base layer if the weather’s cold
- sustaining light snacks
- thermos of tea/coffee/chosen hot drink
Remember, you will need more insulation and heat sources than usual because of the amount of standing around involved.
Engaging with colleagues
Colleagues should be encouraged not to go into work. Colleagues who are not union members do not have to cross the picket line and have the same rights as union members when taking industrial action. Colleagues can join UCU on the picket line if they wish.
Respectful dialogue is the most productive way to persuade colleagues to respect the picket. Some of the following pointers may help:
- Set an encouraging tone. Picketing should be a positive experience!
- Make sure everyone knows that picketing is legal, friendly, and generally marked by displays of goodwill rather than confrontation.
- Experienced picketers can be good ambassadors to others within their groups or departments.
- Assume no prior knowledge about what picketing is and how it works. Without being patronising, offer clear and direct guidance on the basics.
- Asking someone if they are willing to do something and explaining why they should is generally more effective than telling someone to do it.
Engaging with students
Students are encouraged not to go onto campus for study during the strikes. Alternative study spaces are available outside campus and the literature we have produced for students highlights these. Student Union spaces and residences are not being picketed and students should feel comfortable visiting them.
Far more important than reducing presence on campus is the opportunity afforded by pickets to talk to students, to encourage them to take actions to support the strike, or to attend teach-ins. This should always be your priority when engaging with students. Direct them to the resources in the booklet for students.
Picket alongside colleagues wherever possible
People should generally be picketing in pairs or larger groups. That way, we can make conversation in quiet periods, relieve each other for breaks (etc), chat more easily to passing staff and students, and get leaflets into hands quickly enough at busy times. Co-picketing also means someone can capture any unexpected photo opportunities and provide support if anyone is in difficulty. Colleagues who are nervous or new to picketing are much more likely to join in if you reassure them that they won’t be on their own. If possible, pair new people with folk who have done this before. Solo picketing is best left to enthusiastic pickets who are personally determined to make sure no exit is left uncovered: don’t leave anybody to do it unless they want to.
Dealing with factors that might exclude people will demonstrate the values we’re standing for, as well as helping to create a stronger showing on picket lines.
Many people can’t stand comfortably for long periods. This is true in terms of disability accommodation, but it’s also significant for people who wouldn’t class themselves as disabled. Seating is available in neutral spaces. Folding and lightweight chairs may also provide a solution on the pickets themselves.
As a general principle, talk to disabled members about what it would be useful to do: the answers will depend a lot on the site and the people involved. Don’t fall into the widespread error of thinking about obvious, visible motor disabilities (wheelchair access provision etc) and leaving it at that.
There is a detailed guidance document prepared by Sheffield UCU on autism and striking, compiled by members, with advice both for branch organisers and for autistic strikers themselves.
The aim of a picket is to cause disruption, work stoppage, and inconvenience. Avoiding these is no excuse to cross a picket and exemptions will be very rare. However, there may be occasions where it is necessary to make exceptions. Clinicians, including welfare counsellors, are permitted to keep their clinical commitments (see UCU guidance). Students who need to access advice and counselling should be made to feel comfortable to do so. Students commonly access counselling via the Graduate Centre entrance on Bancroft Road and in the Garrod Building at Whitechapel. Please bear this in mind when engaging with students.
In addition, where there is an urgent welfare or health and safety need, or where a campus space is a place of refuge for someone in danger, this should clearly take precedence.
Please also be aware that Teaching Associates on Tier 4 visas are in an unusual position. As regards their teaching contracts, they have the right to participate in the strike on the same basis as other staff. As students, however, they have no special status and so may be compelled to attend classes given by non-striking staff or face being reported for serial absence by the institution (which jeopardises their visa status). Do not pressure Tier 4 colleagues or students to miss classes. TAs who are affected in this way are encouraged to let the pickets know they are crossing the line under duress.
Picketing and the law
Picketing is a completely lawful activity and an important democratic right. There’s a summary of the law on picketing at the gov.uk site. There is also a government Code of Practice for conduct on picket lines which can be accessed here. UCU has also prepared guidance to picketing and the law.
The CoP suggests that in general the number of picketers at any workplace entrance or exit should not exceed six. But this does not prevent supporters from standing nearby provided the result doesn’t block access. In the event of any difficulties, you can clearly distinguish picketers with armbands.
Anyone can demonstrate in support of a picket action. You don’t need to get permission for a static demonstration, provided it doesn’t have public order implications. Demonstrators or visitors separate from a picket should not wear picket armbands.
The Branch Co-Chairs, Zara Dinnen and James Eastwood, are the designated picket supervisor on all days unless unavailable. They, or someone who can reach them, will be at the Queens Building entrances. Otherwise picket supervisors can be most easily be reached via the QMUL industrial action whatsapp group, which you can join here.
Starting the picket
Pickets open at 9:30am every day unless otherwise agreed. There will be an agreed key bearer with access to materials in the union office. Generally starting the picket is the hardest part of the day, as there is quite a lot of set up work and numbers can be lower. If possible, make every effort to come to pickets early to give moral and practical support!
Closing the picket
Active picketing will generally stop at 1pm. We will gather at the end of the day to check in and discuss plans. Please put all materials back in the union office, and try as far as possible to keep them tidy!