University workers from the east of Scotland to the south coast of England are striking and marching as part of a patchwork of fierce resistance.
The actions show the determination to keep fighting over pay and other issues, but the UCU union leaders are not coordinating a fightback.
Most of the strikes are against punitive pay deductions for workers who are implementing a marking and assessment boycott (Mab).
College bosses deduct up to 100 percent of pay for those taking part in the Mab, even if they continue to teach, lecture and support students as normal. It’s wage theft.
The boycott is the latest phase of a long-running battle over pay, equalities, contracts and conditions.
In March UCU successfully renewed its mandate under the anti-union laws to allow strikes and other action for a further six months at 145 universities.
Brighton university workers, students and their supporters are set to march on Saturday against plans to make 110 staff redundant.
The university wants to ram through £17.9 million of cuts. Yet it has spent over £50m on building projects in the last two years.
Recently university workers and students voted they had no confidence in vice-chancellor Debra Humphris’ leadership.
Mark Abel, chair of the Brighton UCU branch, said, “This overwhelming vote clearly demonstrates that staff have no faith in the direction the current vice-chancellor is taking the university.”
A group of students has been occupying the vice-chancellor’s office in support of the battle against job cuts. Brighton UCU members are also set to strike from 19-23 June over pay deductions.
Workers at Soas university in central London continue their strikes in the face of employer threats and intimidation. Bosses have chosen to deduct 100 percent of wages from Mab participants or anyone that refuses to declare an intention to mark.
Soas is also withholding pension payments to these workers so that the total deduction amounts to effectively 120 percent. UCU members have already struck for six days over the issue and were set to strike from Monday to Thursday.
Dundee university UCU members struck on Wednesday of last week over pay deductions. Carlo Morelli, co-president of Dundee UCU, told Socialist Worker, “People are joining the union over this. They want to see a serious fight. And many students are backing us, despite the turmoil over their assessment.”
Exam boards—that ratify marks and grades—have now ended in Scotland. In some cases universities have awarded degrees provisionally based on previous work. Actual grades will come out when marks are eventually declared. In other cases, such as law courses, regulatory bodies won’t accept that. Universities are left hoping to ratify degrees at some point in the future.
The chaos underlines that the Mab can have an effect, but needs to be backed by strikes. Otherwise workers can be left isolated as ruthless managers target their pay.
Staff at Manchester College and UCEN Manchester continued 12 days of planned strikes over pay this week Management is offering just a 2.7 percent pay uplift.
Over 100 staff at Tyne Coast College plan strikes over pay on Monday and Wednesday this week.
And staff at Leeds City, Harrogate, Kirklees and Bradford colleges scheduled strikes for four days over pay on Monday and Wednesday this week and next week.
The UCU said college leaders only have themselves to blame if strikes disrupt crucial GCSE maths and English exams.
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