Lectures, seminars and administration face disruption across all UK universities today, as many university staff are pressing ahead with industrial action over pay.
Members from the University and College Union (UCU), as well as those from Unite and UNISON have walked out over rows about insufficient pay, making this the first co-ordinated strike between the three unions.
Unions suggest that with a 1% pay rise being offered to university employees this year, the pay of staff in real terms has been cut by 13% since October 2008.
This has occurred in conjunction with an increase of more than £5,000 for the heads of universities between 2011 and 2012.
In fact, recent reports have demonstrated that the average pay and pensions package for Vice Chancellors is £242,000 a year, with the UK’s universities collectively obtaining a surplus of over £1.1 billion.
A UCU spokesperson told Impact prior to the protest, that the Union is “very disappointed the employers have made no effort to try and resolve the dispute without disruption in universities.”
He added that “Staff are angry they have been offered a miserly 1% pay rise at a time when bills are going up at a much higher rate. We hope that the actions of staff across UK universities on Thursday will prompt the employers to make a decent pay offer to their staff.”
Staff are having to do more with less, whilst working for lower wages.
With twenty-six confirmed University of Nottingham (UoN) lecturers striking today from a variety of Departments, including Politics and International Relations, History, Music, Philosophy, Spanish and Hispanic Studies, American Studies, Creative Writing, Classics, English and Sociology; many students have therefore been informed of cancellations and re-arranged lectures.
There is also an expectation that there will be many more who are unconfirmed attending the picket lines at the University entrances throughout the day.
The general reaction amongst students was mixed, although the majority admitted that that they were concerned about missing contact hours.
A second year Archaeology student said, “Whilst it gives more recovery time after the Crisis all-nighter, re-arranging lectures and catching up with missed work is quite frustrating.”
Another student also commented, “Whilst I sympathise with lecturers, I feel considering the increase in fees I should be getting the maximum number of contact hours I am entitled to. Surely there is another way to resolve the issue.”
UoN lecturers taking strike action have, nevertheless, identified the need for solidarity between lecturers and students on this issue.
Politics and International Relations lecturer, Dr Adam Morton, told Impact “Some students have been quick to highlight the issue of missed seminars. But to do so would be to fall into an individuated response against the call for strike action…
I think defending the right to strike in solidarity with student interests a valuable and important one. To that effect, I have welcomed my students to join me on the picket line on Thursday, at the University West Entrance at 9:00am as a reflection of lecturer-student interests.”
Such views were further echoed throughout the Humanities department as another lecturer highlighted that “Many teaching resources have also been severely cut back in light of those government cuts, which has meant staff are having to do more with less, whilst working for lower wages.”
Consequently, you students are getting a raw deal: surely you would prefer to be taught by people whose morale is high, whose work is invested in, and who feel rewarded for the hard work they do?! I think we have common cause here.”
The UoN issued the following statement in reaction to the strike:
“The University is disappointed that UCU is asking members to strike on Thursday 31 October 2013. We are concerned at potential disruption to our students’ teaching and learning but will take appropriate action to ensure that disruption caused by any industrial action is kept to a minimum.”
Images: Kateryna Rolle