Student anger at further planned lecturer strikes

Staff strikes could continue into next academic calendar

Credit: Josiah Mortimer

Credit: Josiah Mortimer

Students have voiced concerns over last month’s industrial action by lecturers as the University and College Union suggest that further strikes are likely to happen.  The dispute revolves around pay for lecturers, after the UCU rejected the 1 per cent pay increase offer.

The UCU decision to escalate industrial action means that disruption is likely to occur in the autumn term of next year unless a deal can be reached.

The College Union have already rejected a revised offer nationally, after universities came back and offered a 1.1 per cent increase in pay.

One third year History student told Nouse that, “These strikes are seemingly constant, and can only be to the detriment of students. Many of us are attempting to enter a saturated job market, so to watch the teaching unions demand a bigger pay rise every year is a little galling.”

A first year History student also said, “Lecturers are already paid a lot, maybe they should think about their students who are under increasing financial pressure rather than wasting our money by striking”.

However, some students were sympathetic to the lecturer’s concerns. A third year Economics student said, “Lecturers work really hard for their students and they wouldn’t be taking strike action unless it was necessary; many haven’t seen pay increases for several years but have seen the Vice Chancellor’s salary increase massively.”

Geoffrey Wall, UCU president and lecturer in the English Department, confirmed to Nouse that a national ballot had taken place and that the Union’s membership has voted for further industrial action.

This is a familiar commercial strategy: building the brand, while surreptitiously squeezing labour costs at the expense of quality. The evidence is all around us: seminar groups that feel too big,  too many tutors on short-term contracts,  overworked lecturers who can’t remember your name, long delays in replacing staff who leave. It doesn’t have to be like this.

He explained: “Lecturer’s pay has declined by nearly 15 per cent since 2009 so we are now effectively working for nothing for 15 per cent of 37 hours every week. That’s 5.55 hours, working for nothing, and that’s an hour and a bit every day. We are not happy, working for nothing for an hour a day.”

If strike action is to occur it is likely to have an impact on students. Thomas Ron, YUSU Academic Officer, said: “We took steps during the strikes to make sure that there was continuity of provision for students and we have not heard of any reports of disruption. Lecturers now are working strictly to hours, meaning that they will not work overtime. However, as most contact time is in the working day the effect on students for the direct hours of their contact time should be minimal.

“Once again, we very much hope both sides return to the table and work out a solution to ensure that our university can be at its best for students.”

When asked about the likelihood of a quick resolution to the strike, University Registrar and Secretary David Duncan told Nouse that: “The University & College Union (UCU) has announced ‘Action Short of a Strike’ in the form of working to contract; this action began on Wednesday 25 May.”

He further explained that the University is looking to arrange a settlement that will avoid industrial action and prioritise essential work, minimising any negative impact on students.

Wall addressed frustrated students: “To those students feeling angry, we want to say that we did not take this decision lightly.  We know that the action has caused disruption and we regret this. But the truth is that University employers could end the dispute today. With rising tuition fees, the system currently has over £1.8bn in operating surpluses.

“This is your money. And you may well ask where it’s going.  Into buildings, into VC’s salaries, into schemes for increasing revenues. Rather than being invested in staff.

“This is a familiar commercial strategy: building the brand, while surreptitiously squeezing labour costs at the expense of quality. The evidence is all around us: seminar groups that feel too big,  too many tutors on short-term contracts,  overworked lecturers who can’t remember your name, long delays in replacing staff who leave. It doesn’t have to be like this.

“These things come from decisions that are being made against your best interests. You can help to make your university a better place in which to learn. We ask you to support our campaign for a fair deal. Email the VC and urge him to press national negotiators to make a better offer. Talk to your lecturers about the action. Talk to your Students’ Union.”

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