HE pay dispute must step up

Submitted by AWL on 21 January, 2014 - 8:22

The University and College Union (UCU), Unison, and Scottish teachers’ union EIS will strike on 6 February in their dispute against Higher Education employers’ 1% pay offer.

Unite, the other main union representing non-academic staff in Higher Education, say they are undertaking further consultation before joining the strike.

Although the announcement of a further strike day is positive, many workers were hoping for an escalation of the dispute to a two or three-day strike following one-day strikes on 31 October and 3 December. Union members have essentially been kept in the dark since December, despite unions initially threatening to announce ongoing programmes of action for the period after Christmas.

UCU is supplementing the 6 February strike with a series of two-hour walkouts on Thursday 23 January (11am-1pm), Tuesday 28 January (2pm-4pm), and Monday 10 February (9am-11am).

Although UCU describes the move as an “escalation”, many UCU activists believe it is just the opposite. One union activist told Solidarity: “This is a complete change of strategy from the one put to members with the original ballot, and is clearly a de-escalation. It is contrary to the promise of escalating action after to Christmas to two and three day strikes, followed by a marking boycott.”

Unison members at the University of Birmingham, one of the universities to have imposed the 1% deal, struck on Thursday 16 January in a local dispute about pay. They are demanding living wages for the 326 university workers currently paid below that rate.

A Unison activist told Solidarity: “It seems to me like this dispute is being deliberately run into the ground — who can talk to their colleagues about the great effectiveness of a two-hour strike, or even of another 24-hour strike, with a straight face? Employers are implementing the offer unilaterally all over the place.

“The best thing we can salvage from it is to bring together the disaffected branches who want more action and come up with a battleplan for how we can conduct an industrial and political campaign for a proper pay rise next year to begin to make up for the pay which has been eroded.”

Time is running out for national dispute. Many institutions have already begun to implement the 1% pay deal which the strike is attempting to stop.

Some student unions, such as the University College London Union, have called solidarity demonstrations on the days of the UCU’s two-hour walkouts.

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