By Sophie Squire
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2784

Solidarity boosts university strikers on second day of walkout

50,000 workers at 58 universities are striking for three days over pay, pensions and inequalities
Issue 2784
four university workers on the picket line outside UCL university in central London

Strikers at UCL university in central London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

University workers took to picket lines on Thursday for the second day of their three-day strike over pensions, pay and inequalities.

Around 50,000 UCU union members are striking in two connected disputes—the first is against a cut to the USS pension scheme. The second is over equal pay, casual contracts, workload, and a real terms pay rise—known as the “four fights”.

In Brighton, 150 people joined a rally in support of strikers at Brighton and Sussex universities and then marched through the city’s streets. 

There were large picket lines outside Glasgow university and Liverpool university, where workers carried a sign reading, “Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions.” 

Sean Wallis, UCU president at UCL in London, said, “Pay has fallen by more than 20 percent over the last ten years.

“Tuition fees have gone up and we’ve seen spiralling job insecurity, particularly among our younger members of staff.”

At UCL, students joined the picket line in solidarity.

Anoushka, a sociology student at the university, said, “The strike is part of the broader struggle against the marketisation of education.”

Students and workers from Goldsmiths university marched through the streets of south London to Lloyds and Natwest.

UCU members at Goldsmiths began a 15-day strike on Tuesday 23 November against bosses’ plans to axe 52 jobs at the behest of the banks.

Tamar, a lecturer in the history department, recently received a letter to say that her job was under threat. “They didn‘t even bother to individualise emails that they sent around,” she told Socialist Worker.

“In the past the university has agreed to put the unpaid wages of striking workers into the student hardship fund. 

“This year, they refused to do that. This year the money will go straight to the banks.”

Ruth was a mature student at Goldsmiths university before becoming a lecturer five years ago.

She told Socialist Worker that universities are going through an “institutional crisis”. “The university system is becoming completely unsustainable for people to work in,” she said. “In addition, because of the high levels of casualisation, there is a real lack of continuity. 

“People can’t understand how everything works at an institution if they are working at three or even four other universities just to get by.”

She added, “I think what’s going on in higher education at the moment is symptomatic of a much broader issue. 

“The issue is that workers are being pushed harder for less across every sector.”

Tamar added that the cuts at Goldsmiths are ideological. “I think the cuts at Goldsmiths fit the government’s agenda,” she said.

“And that is to cut the arts and humanities in favour of what they consider to be courses with a job at the end of it.

“What this does, is send the message to working class students that the subjects like English and history aren’t for them.”

In Sheffield, striking UCU members went to a Unite union picket line of Stagecoach bus workers, who are striking over pay.

And despite not being on strike this time, workers at east London’s Queen Mary university also organised a protest.

Another 42 universities are voting on joining the strikes, with the ballot beginning on Monday and closing on 14 January.

Every trade union and campaigner should build solidarity for the strikes. They should become a focal point for everyone that wants to see a fight against the Tories and the bosses.

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