Next month will see 70,000 members of the University and College Union (UCU) striking across Britain in 150 universities, beginning on Wednesday 1 February. The campaign is called UCU Rising and this is exactly what members are doing. Employers beware!
Jo Grady, the union’s general secretary, has issued a warning to the employers: “UCU remains committed to reaching a negotiated settlement, but if university employers don’t get serious and fast, more strike action will follow in February and March.” Later in January members will be informed of the dates of a planned further 17 days of action.
The action is a demonstration of members’ determination to defend jobs and pay and to claw back their pension from rapacious university employers. Last year, completely without financial justification, pension benefits were reduced by a third.
And still the employers want more. The University of East Anglia (UEA) has announced that it is looking at making compulsory redundancies as a cost-cutting measure in the next few months. “University staff are asked to pay the price. Solidarity with our UEA branch – the entire union stands shoulder to shoulder with you in fighting this,” said Grady.
At the same time, many other universities, such as the University of Glasgow, are minting it through recruitment of thousands of international students who pay inflated fees and receive a poor service through inadequate staffing levels and insufficient facilities including a shortage of classroom space.
Striking isn’t the only tactic the UCU is using. Members are also sticking to a standard working day (academics normally tend to work far more hours that they are paid for) and employing guerrilla tactics through boycotting marking and assessment.
In a branch-led national vote, members took the well considered decision to boycott end-of-year assessments, when it will hit hardest – and also giving time for the employers to come to their senses.
On Monday 23 January, Imperial College UCU members will be out on the picket lines alongside colleagues from Unite on their second day of strike action over locally negotiated pay.
• Further education (FE) workers are keeping up the pressure on college employers in support of the UCU’s Respect FE campaign for better pay, manageable workloads and professional respect, with several branches taking or balloting for industrial action and others settling with improved deals.
At Sheffield College 200 staff were on strike on 20 January after receiving a pay offer of just 2.5 per cent. Further strike dates include Monday 30 January, Tuesday 7 February and Thursday 9 February.
And UCU members at Havant and South Downs College are being balloted for industrial action. The college has made a pay offer of between 4.3 per cent to 2.6 per cent for different grades. The ballot closes on Friday 3 February.