UCU union members at Edinburgh and Kent universities struck today, Tuesday, in a row over pay. The walkout follows a strike by union members at the University of Winchester on Friday of last week, and a national 48-hour strike last month.
UCU members have rejected a measly 1.1 percent pay offer from bosses. And they are demanding an end to the gender pay gap and casualised contracts. Universities are taking part in rolling strikes as part of a national campaign.
Over 20 pickets gathered in Edinburgh where a socialist choir led a rendition of “Solidarity forever”. Shereen is on the UCU branch committee there. She told Socialist Worker, “There’s a lot of support for the strike.
“People are very angry about the constant erosion of our pay. But more than that, they are angry at pay inequality and casualisation.”
Phil, who was also on the picket line, agreed. “It would be nice to be paid more,” he told Socialist Worker. “But I think the main issue is to sort out the gender pay gap and casualisation.
“People sometimes don’t realise that others we work alongside are on zero hours contracts.”
Kent UCU branch secretary Owen Lyne said workers were “making a stand against the increasing use of temporary contracts which undermines the academic role”.
Phil said attacks on workers’ conditions was bad for students. “The strength of higher education is based in its staff,” he said. “You need enthusiastic and well-supported staff to have enthusiastic and well-supported learning.”
The UCU has asked different branches to choose a date to strike throughout the summer. Workers at Sussex university were set to strike tomorrow, Wednesday, followed by the University of Glasgow and the University of West of Scotland on Thursday.
Strikes were set to hit the University of Bath and the University of Bristol on Friday. Delegates at the UCU’s annual congress backed national strikes and action short of strikes in the autumn.
But some workers felt there had been a lack of consultation about the dispute from the union leadership. Talat, another Edinburgh striker, said there was some cynicism about the union’s strategy.
“Some people don’t have faith in general secretary Sally Hunt or the negotiators,” she said. “But people do feel it’s important that we do this.”
Shereen added, “Our experience has been that strikes build the union. They can galvanise people. And there’s a strong mood for escalation in the autumn.
“People aren’t hoodwinked by the employers’ pleading poverty. People have had enough.”