UCU strikes begin on campus

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The University and College Union strikes are set to begin on campus today, the 20th February 2020.

UCU’s strikes are being taken to address disputes arising over pay, working conditions and rising pension costs.

The planned dates for the strikes this term are:

  • Week One – Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February
  • Week Two – Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Thursday 26 February
  • Week Three – Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March
  • Week Four – Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March

This is the second strike of the 2019-2020 academic year, with members of the UCU walking out for eight days last November and December.

The Union also carried out strikes in the Lent Term of the 2017/2018 academic year.

The Student’s Union of Sheffield University have published a national letter to ‘to help seek a resolution’ to the strike action through the collaboration of SU’s across the country.

Their SU President Jake Verity said:

I have written a letter addressed to a number of key stakeholders in the dispute, including the new universities minister. I have circulated this letter to over 70 students’ unions in the country who are also affected by industrial action over the past week, to organise a national piece of collective action to place pressure on employers to find a resolution to industrial action whilst ensuring it maintains the democratic mandate of supporting the strikes that our SU Council agreed last November.

Many students’ unions are keen to work with us on this, including the National Union of Students. We’re hopeful that it will kickstart strong collective action to finally see employers finding a resolution for our staff, and the end to the disruption for our students.I have written a letter addressed to a number of key stakeholders in the dispute, including the new universities minister. I have circulated this letter to over 70 students’ unions in the country who are also affected by industrial action over the past week, to organise a national piece of collective action to place pressure on employers to find a resolution to industrial action whilst ensuring it maintains the democratic mandate of supporting the strikes that our SU Council agreed last November.

Jake Verity

At the time of writing, the following Students’ Union’s have signed the letter:

  • Stirling Students’ Union
  • Cardiff University Students’ Union
  • Reading University Students’ Union
  • Ulster University Students’ Union
  • Queen Mary Students’ Union
  • NUS UK
  • SOAS Students’ Union
  • Winchester Student Union
  • City, University of London Students’ Union
  • Warwick Students’ Union
  • Liverpool Guild Of Students

This follows an open letter organised by Lancaster University students which was delivered to the interim vice-chancellor, Professor Steve Bradley on the 12th February. The letter addressed ‘discrimination against trade union members by Lancaster University.’

It included over 400 signatories, including students, alumni, academics, and trade unionists from Lancaster and universities across the UK.

Other signatories include the President of Lancaster University Students’ Union and several Lancaster City Councillors.

City councillor Jack O’Dwyer-Henry said:

The rights to organise your workplace and withhold your labour are inalienable. Attempts by university managers to undermine these fundamental rights is simply unacceptable, and shall be met with unwavering resistance until it is stopped.

To avoid thousands of students’ studies being further disrupted by the second wave of strike action this academic year, the onus is now on university managers to immediately resolve their ongoing disputes with the UCU, and start treating all their staff with the respect they deserve. Management must also take meaningful action to address Lancaster University’s endemic culture of bullying. Until then, I’ll be joining students and staff on the picket line.

Jack O’Dwyer-Henry

UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said:

If universities want to avoid further disruption they need to deal with rising pension costs, and address the problems over pay and conditions.

We have been clear from the outset that we would take serious and sustained industrial action if that was what was needed. As well as the strikes starting later this month, we are going to ballot members to ensure that we have a fresh mandate for action until the end of the academic year if these disputes are not resolved.

Jo Grady

SCAN contacted Lancaster University for a statement. They said:

Lancaster University is committed to achieving the fairest possible pay and pension for staff, and Lancaster will continue work to positively influence negotiations at a national level, while recognising that outcomes must be affordable and sustainable for Lancaster University in the long term.

This dispute has arisen as a result of national pay and pension issues, most of which are outside Lancaster University’s control.This further planned strike action comes at a time when positive national-level talks on the future of pensions, pay and working conditions are making significant progress and are ongoing.

We particularly regret the impact of this on our students, who have already been through other periods of strike action and on colleagues across the university, who will be working hard to minimise disruption and ensure that students are supported in their studies and assessment.

The dispute also centres on equality, employment contracts and workloads, three issues which we take seriously and are actively working to improve.

Our new fixed-term contracts and casual working policy is an example of sector-leading change to address casualisation within Higher EducationWe maintain that the best way forward is to work collectively to secure a pension scheme that is highly valued and affordable for all.

Lancaster University

This is an ongoing story.

Tell us how the strikes have affected you and your studies by emailing scan.news@lancastersu.co.uk or scan.associateeditor@lancastersu.co.uk

Olivia Kenny

Hi! I'm Olivia (but everyone calls me Liv) and I'm the Associate Editor for SCAN for 2019-2020. I was previously the News Editor and have contributed to the section since the beginning of my first year. Now in my third year, SCAN is a huge part of my University life. Feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions, I'd love to hear from you!

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