University workers took part in a wave of strikes across last week as part of a national campaign over pay.
The UCU union members want equal pay for women, an end to casual contracts and more than the 1.1 percent pay offer currently on the table.
Some nine strikes took place last week—at Edinburgh, Kent, Sussex, Glasgow, West of Scotland, Bath, Bristol, Coventry and Essex universities.
Shereen, a UCU branch committee member in Edinburgh, told Socialist Worker, “People are very angry about the constant erosion of our pay—and at pay inequality and casualisation.”
Tom Frost, UCU branch secretary at Sussex, told Socialist Worker, “An awful lot of our members are angry about casual contracts.
“The fact that 26,000 university workers are on zero hours contracts is a disgrace.”
Union branches chose dates to coincide with events such as open days or to disrupt exam boards awarding degree marks.
Strikers stressed that attacks on them are bad for students.
Tom said, “Students don’t want to pay £9,000 a year to be taught by someone on an insecure contract.”
Edinburgh striker Phil added, “You need enthusiastic and well-supported staff to have enthusiastic and well-supported learning.”
The union plans national strikes and action short of a strike in autumn, after further rolling strikes over summer.
Some union branches, such as University College London and London Metropolitan University, want to strike alongside teachers in early July.
There is some cynicism about union leaders’ commitment to winning. Edinburgh striker Talat said, “Some people don’t have faith in general secretary Sally Hunt or the negotiators. 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.”
Tue 21 Jun—Central Lancashire
Wed 22 Jun—Greenwich, Manchester, King’s College London, Oxford, Reading, Queen Margaret (Edinburgh), Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (Greenwich), Soas, Wolverhampton, University of Wales Trinity St David
Thu 23 Jun—Birkbeck, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Leeds, Sheffield, Glasgow Caledonian
Fri 24 Jun—Chester, Liverpool, Warwick, Glasgow School of Art, Heriot-Watt (Edinburgh), Oxford Brookes