Unis out from 25 November

Submitted by Zac Muddle on 20 November, 2019 - 1:02 Author: Dan Davison
A crowd with a banner reading "Students support the strike"

Members of the University and College Union (UCU), the national union for academic staff in the UK, are set to strike at 60 universities for eight days between 25 November and 4 December 2019.

This follows a highly successful pair of strike ballots among UCU members in higher education: one on pensions, the other on pay, equality, casualisation, and workloads.

The pensions strike continues the long-running dispute over proposed cuts to the United Superannuation Scheme (USS), the main pension plan in the “pre-92” universities.

The pay dispute affects both the “pre-92” and “post-92” universities. In real terms, pay in higher education has dropped by 17% since 2009. By UCU’s own estimates, 46% of universities use zero-hour contracts for teaching and 68% of research staff are precariously employed on fixed-term contracts.

On average, black academic staff are paid 14% less than their white colleagues and the gender pay gap in universities is 13.7%, which is significantly above the national average.

Although the new UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, is identified with the “new left” of the union that emerged from the events of 2018, UCU does not yet have a properly constituted rank and file caucus. There are overlapping networks, such as Branch Solidarity Network and UCU Rank and File, but that mainly exist online.

It is therefore important to use the upcoming strike to renew efforts to build a viable rank and file caucus in UCU.

From the Student Left Network

Student activists from Sheffield Hallam, Sussex, Imperial, LSE, Cambridge, Aston, and Reading universities have joined a Zoom call to share what we’re planning on our campuses to support the UCU strike, the demands we are raising, what students’ unions are doing, and how we can link up these campaigns into a national movement.

This group will now:

  • hold weekly zoom calls to discuss and coordinate on a national level throughout the strike and after
  • hold a national meeting to coordinate across campuses and decide democratically how we want to link up as a national movement
  • reach out to students at every striking uni to set up a student-worker solidarity group
  • mobilise for big delegations to picket lines
  • organise demos, occupy and blockade management buildings
  • discuss coordinating actions across campuses
  • publish reports, news, ideas and resources about the strike.

A possible national demo is also being discussed.

We want to help the UCU campaign for the university to not deduct staff pay during the action short of a strike which will follow the strike. And help fight for the demands on working conditions, workloads, casualisation and pay inequality.

As students we can link this with the way university managements are expanding student numbers without an expansion of accommodation, staff and other services.

For example some students have been left without adequate accommodation at the start of term, have to participate in huge seminars, and put up with no space in the library…

If you want to join this Student Left Network working group email studentleftnetwork@gmail.com.

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