UCU union members in universities will stage a two-day national strike over pay later this month. The walkout of around 60,000 workers across Britain will take place on 25 and 26 May, and workers will begin a work to rule from 25 May.
Sean Wallis is vice-president of the UCU at University College London and a member of the UCU’s national executive committee. He told Socialist Worker, “The most urgent thing now is for branches to call members together as soon as possible.
“Branches need to discuss the arguments about the dispute and get organised for picketing. Workers could organise local rallies on the day. It’s a call for every activist to pull their finger out.”
The UCU has rejected a 1.1 percent pay offer from employers. It pointed out that workers have suffered real terms pay cuts of 14.5 percent since 2009.
The strike will include teaching staff, administrators, IT workers and library staff. Workers voted for strikes by over 65 percent on a 35.5 percent turnout. UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said workers felt they had “been left with no alternative”.
Sean said, “People were heartened by the strength of the result. There is some distrust towards the bureaucracy, especially after the 2011 pensions dispute. So the result shows a real desire to fight.”
The union could call further action in June and July - potentially alongside school teachers - if no agreement is reached. It is also considering calling action in August to coincide with the release of A Level results.
Sean said that a key element of the dispute is challenging gender inequality in pay and casualisation of contracts. “Some women just don’t get promoted because they would then have to be paid more,” he said.
“Universities are also sacking permanent staff and bringing in more casual contracts. It’s driven by the market.
“Students pay £9,000 fees but more than £4,000 goes on things like buildings. It’s not going towards supporting any part of their teaching and that’s quite shocking. Our strike can have a big political impact.”