University staff step up struggle

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UCU pickets at SOAS in central London yesterday morning

MORE WORKERS at 74 universities across the country joined the strike yesterday as students also came out onto the picket lines to support their lecturers and staff.

On the picket line at Kings College on the Strand, UCU rep Chris spoke to News Line. ‘This is the first day of our strike at this particular university,’ he said. ‘It is mainly over the issue of pensions. We are striking for 14 days over four weeks and are out three days this week, four days next week, five the week after, and two the following week.

‘It is just the first day and support is good.’

There were strong picket lines at several entrances to UCL (University College London) yesterday with the main picket at the Quandrangle on Gower Street.

Students turned out with their banner to support the lecturers.

News Line spoke to Sean Wallace, UCU NEC member and branch president of UCL, who said: ‘This is our ninth day of strike because we took action before Christmas.

‘We were not on strike last week because of Reading Week. The strike is getting more serious and more difficult for members because of pay loss.’

At the Mallet Street site, there were pickets at the entrances to Birkbeck College and SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies).

At SOAS, UCU and Unison formed a joint picket line, with students and their banners supporting them. A number of ‘Teach-Ins’ on radical subjects were held during the day.

There were also busy pickets out again at Queen Mary’s College in Mile End.

Henry Del, temporary lecturer, said: ‘The rate of casualisation in the universities is appalling. In QMC 75% of teaching and admin staff are not on permanent contracts. Many junior staff are Teaching Associates and only paid for a few hours.

‘When I was working in Edinburgh, we got paid for three hours of class preparation and for giving three seminars to groups of students after a lecture.

‘So I got paid for six hours work, but in fact the preparation took much longer than that. It was £17 an hour and I would end up with around a £100.’

Katie, a teaching associate said that she was doing her PhD and was on a zero hour contract, not a fixed term contract.

She said: ‘We are allotted a very small amount of time to do a lot of work. We have to mark essays very quickly, otherwise we end up doing hours of unpaid work. And we do seminars. But we are also post graduate students trying to get our own studies done. We are teachers and students.’