UNIVERSITY lecturers and staff across the country have voted for strike action with an overwhelming 76% ‘YES’ vote. It means 37 universities will join the first wave of strikes with more to follow.
They are furious that their pensions are once more under attack. The management attack means that pensions will be cut by 35%. This is not the first round of strike action.
There was an all-out national strike just before the coronavirus lockdown.
Students supported their lecturers, joined the picket lines, occupied universities and joined the big demonstrations, rallies and marches.
Although this strike is over pensions, the action will contain the anger that university lecturers and staff feel over the way that they have been taken for granted by university management and the government.
Lecturers really went above and beyond normal duties during the pandemic to ensure that their students had lectures online. They worked extremely hard to redesign their courses, making them accessible during the lockdown.
However, after all of this extra work, when the lockdown eased and face-to-face teaching began to resume, hundreds of lecturers found that they did not have a job to come back to!
There were mass sackings at universities across the UK. In just one case the University of Leicester threatened over 100 staff with compulsory redundancy.
On top of strike action, the University College Union (UCU) at Leicester launched a global campaign. They organised an ongoing international global boycott of Leicester University.
The boycott called on all academic and all union members not to apply for any jobs at Leicester, not to speak at any conferences at Leicester, not to accept any invitations to speak at Leicester, not to accept any position as a visiting professor or researcher at Leicester, not to write for any journal produced by Leicester and not to mark any examination papers at Leicester.
In June, Liverpool University got the same global boycott treatment over the threat to sack 21 health staff. The students union supported the boycott. Around 1,300 UCU members at the university went on strike for three consecutive weeks.
Universities are now being run like bad businesses.
Because of the pandemic they are losing money from a lack of international students. Like a business, to compensate, universities are making cuts to staff, pensions, pay and conditions, while students are being robbed like cash cows.
Students are in fact paying extortionate rents in substandard student halls, with many reports of cockroaches, rats, black mould, faulty electrics and broken heating.
Since the Tories took the cap off student numbers the general ethos is ‘pack ‘em in,’ with students crammed into lecture theatres because each student is worth £9,250 a year.
In relation to this current strike the UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘Staff in universities have given their all to support students during the pandemic, but management have responded by trying to slash their guaranteed pension by 35%.
‘In a ballot window of just three weeks our members have made it abundantly clear that they will not accept these vindictive attacks on their retirement.’
Students and lecturers are united in the battle against university management and the government’s attempts to privatise education.
The way forward is clear. The nationwide lecturers and university staff strike must be supported by students occupying their universities and joining their lecturers on the picket line.
The last two months have seen college lecturers coming out on strike over zero-hours contracts, low pay and sackings. They have called another ten days of strike and will coordinate the dates with the university strikes.
The scene is set for an all out battle over education. The entire trade union movement must be mobilised to back up the college staff, university lecturers and students. Such a strike will bring this Tory government down. A workers government will immediately restore university funding, so there is no need for tuition fees.
The grant system will be restored to cover students’ accommodation and living expenses. All lecturers and staff will be paid properly, given their full pension and proper contracts. All those working in education must be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.