Solidarity with the UCU Strikers!

The anticipated strikes of staff from UK universities have begun: they will last from today (November 25th 2019) until December 4th. The cause of the dispute is twofold: (1) the long-running saga of the Universities pension scheme (about which there were strikes in 2018); and (2) over pay, equality, workloads and the ever-increasing casualisation of lecturing and other work.

Among the institutions to have voted for strike action are my previous employers in the UK Cardiff, Sussex and Nottingham. It remains to be seen what the impact of these strikes will be, but they could affect a very large number of students. Nobody likes going on strike but the UK higher education system is a very poor state right now, and many of my former colleagues feel that they have no alternative. It will be tough out there on the picket lines in the cold weather, and losing eight days’ pay before Christmas is no fun either, but that’s what it means to go on strike.

I’m no longer involved in the UK university system so can’t do much directly to support those taking industrial action but my own union, the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has expressed solidarity with UCU members so I thought the least I could do is wear my IFUT badge for the duration of the strike. It’s not as if Ireland is immune from casualisation and workload issues.

8 Responses to “Solidarity with the UCU Strikers!”

  1. “losing eight days’ pay”

    Presumably union members will not lose pay, right?

    • Pay is deducted by the employer for days lost due to strike action.

      • Yes, of course, but don’t some of the union dues go into a kitty which compensates this (at least to some degree)?

      • Strike pay only covers a fraction of the pay lost and is normally only given to the neediest. I didn’t get anything at all for the strike days lost in 2018, but then I wasn’t a UCU member at the time.

        This is what the UCU website says about strike pay:

        …The union has agreed to provide strike pay as follows: members earning £30,000 or more will be able to claim up to £50 per day from the third day onwards; members earning below £30,000 will be able to claim up to £75 per day from the second day onwards.

        The maximum currently claimable by any one member is £500. Priority will be given to those on insecure contracts, low earnings or with special circumstances. For more details on the strike fund check here.

        Most strikers will lose a lot more than £500 as a consequence of 8 days action.

  2. When I was working in the UK, I was a member of the AUT. I’m still looking forward to getting my pension as well. 🙂

    In the non-academic world, strikes make sense, at least as an ultima ratio. In the academic world, no economic pressure is put on the employer—in fact, the employer might actually save money. If the students are significantly affected, then it is unfair to the students. If the students are not significantly affected, then the employer has a good argument for making some staff redundant.

    Why not some other sort of protest, such as setting up a blackboard in the pedestrian zone and holding a lecture there? I actually took part in one such demonstration when I was a student in Hamburg. And it was in the winter. A professor gave the lecture. As a civil servant, of course, he wasn’t allowed to strike, but was there to express his sympathy. Of course, his freedom of research and teaching allowed him to hold a lecture outside of the lecture hall. 🙂

    What can the students do? How can they put pressure on the employers? It seems that the only possible effect is to draw attention to the cause. Could something other than a strike be more effective?

  3. George Jones Says:

    I have been on strike for two-and-a-half weeks (full university shutdown). Each week, as long I spend at least twenty hours on the the picket line, I get paid $616 (non-taxable) from a national university strike fund.

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