Socialist Worker

University workers' strike brings together four unions to demand decent pay

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2389

University workers on the picket line at Leeds Metropolitan University

University workers on the picket line at Leeds Metropolitan University (Pic: Christian Hogsbjerg)

Workers in universities across Britain struck today, Thursday, to demand decent pay. The walkout brought together four unions – the UCU, Unison, Unite and the EIS in Scotland

Workers are facing a 1 percent pay deal – after years of below-inflation deals. Unions say university workers have lost around 13 percent of their pay in real terms over the last four years. 

Kelvin Gwilliam is a Unite rep at London’s Institute of Education. “If you don’t put a line in the sand, it will keep getting worse,” he told Socialist Worker. 

“The value of our pay just keeps going down while energy bills and accommodation costs go up.” 

Gyta Nicola, branch secretary of Unison there, added that workers are worried for their jobs after news that the Institute is set to merge with University College London. 

“People talk of it in terms of a takeover,” she told Socialist Worker. “They’ve got a timeline for it and it’s meant to be completed at the end of this year. 

“It makes a joke of the idea that there’s any consultation.” 

UCU union members in higher education have been taking part in a series of two-hour strikes as part of the campaign over pay. But many strikers want union leaders to escalate. 

Steve Dodd, a UCU member at Soas, told Socialist Worker, “I’m not sure if the two-hour strikes are effective. A lot of people just don’t come out for them.” 

John Yandell, a UCU member at the IoE, agreed. “People join the two-hour strikes but that doesn’t mean we aren’t critical of the leadership’s strategy. 

“I don’t think it’s strong enough. At a regional briefing last week the mood was very much for escalation. And people want a marking boycott to start earlier than April too.” 

Strikers mounted picket lines across London despite travel being difficult because of a solid Tube strike. Students and other workers turned out to support the action. 

One student at UCL told Socialist Worker, “Students and staff shouldn’t be pitted against each other. We have the same enemy – the bosses – who are taking £9,000 in fees from us while paying lecturers low wages.” 

Another student at Soas said, “If you don’t treat lecturers fairly, they can’t do their job properly. We already see that lecturers have less time to see you – they’ve got so many other things to do.”

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