All over the country today legal picket lines were being set up to ensure that union members abided by the national one day strike called in response to a democratic vote by their members to take action against the ConDem Government's attack on pensions. Everywhere, that is, except outside of the University of Salford's new campus at MediaCityUK.
Members of Salford University's staff union, the University and College Union (UCU), have told the Salford Star that Peel Holding's security staff threatened to remove activists "with reasonable force" if they didn't leave MediaCityUK this morning and abandon attempts to form a picket line.
Jim Atherton, a former UCU rep at Salford University and now Chair of UCU North West Retired Members' Branch, was one of the union activists on the MediaCityUK site this morning.
"At around 7:45 am, we were setting up placards outside the staff entrance to the UoS building, we were approached by two security staff acting on behalf of the Peel Group and we were told that we probably should not be doing what we intended as the land was owned by Peel and this situation would have to be checked out" Jim told the Salford Star
"Accordingly, one of them spoke by phone with the Head of Security at MCUK" he added "and he then came down to see us about fifteen minutes later and informed us that he had spoken with someone at Peel and they confirmed that `demonstrations' are only allowed on Peel land if authorised in advance.
"We then stated that, at worst, we might be `guilty' of common trespass and that we would be more than happy to discuss the situation with the police. The Head of Security then told us that the police would not be involved as they (the police) are only allowed onto Peel property when invited! He went on to say that they (the security staff) were allowed to remove us from MCUK and that they would use `reasonable force' if they thought this was necessary!"
"At this point, being somewhat outnumbered as other security staff were now present, we took our leave. In fact, we were required to go beyond, not just the Metrolink tram lines, but actually to the other side of the road opposite the no. 9 bus stop (alongside dock 9)."
Off site, the UCU members, joined by other colleagues, continued their attempts at picketing away from the threats of Peel's private police.
"Interestingly we found ourselves very well received by the majority of people passing by" said Jim "and consider our activities at MCUK to have been a success prior to the rally at Bexley Square and the subsequent incredible march to Whitworth Park."
Months and months ago, Salford Star asked Peel Holdings how many trade union members it has within its staff and its attitudes towards trade unions. We're still waiting for a reply but this story kind of answers it.
Meanwhile, no-one can dispute that the MediaCityUK land is owned by Peel Holdings but a phenomenal amount of public money has been poured into its private MediaCityUK enterprise.
The University of Salford is paying Peel Holdings over £2million a year of public money in rent. And the so-called `public piazza' of MediaCityUK was almost entirely paid for by public money too – part of a £30million grant from the North West Development Agency which also went towards the Metrolink extension, a pedestrian bridge over the Ship Canal, canopies over public walkways and the soon-to-be-installed `media wall'.
People might well be asking why all this public money has been spent with absolutely no public control or accountability over the land's use. And private security guards ejecting trade unionists going about their lawful business.
• We asked the University of Salford for a comment but its press officer wasn't at work today. Perhaps he was on strike, although we hope he wasn't intending to picket at MediaCityUK...
• See also previous Salford Star articles about the revolving door between Peel Holdings and the NWDA… click here
* See also full report and photos of the Salford Manchester march against pension cuts - click here