University and College Union, UNISON and Unite join forces to campaign for fair pay.
This Thursday is the date set by the University and College Union (UCU), in conjunction with UNISON and Unite for widespread industrial striking action, something which will have a widespread effect upon staff and students alike at University of London.
The action comes as the result of staff being offered a pay rise of just 1%, meaning they will have suffered a pay cut of 13% in real terms since October 2008 due to inflation and cost-of-living increases. Despite this, pay and benefits for university leaders has increased between 2011-12 by more than £5000 on average, with the pay packages for Vice-Chancellors resting close to the figure of £250,000 per annum.
According to the UCU head of higher education, Michael MacNeil: “Staff have suffered year-on-year cuts in the value of their pay. Quite simply, enough is enough. We urge the employers to reflect on the fact that they are about to face their first ever strike by three unions at the same time and come to the negotiating table to resolve this dispute.”
The situation for academics at present is a difficult one. Principally, at the lower end of the scale, contracts tend to be temporary and poorly paid; for post-doctoral contracts (which are often one-year appointments) their wages are often dictated by the hour. The situation, therefore, for a lot of younger academics is one of extreme precariousness.
This may be contrary to what a great deal of students believe, and what is often overlooked is the fact that universities have a position of power, often wielded by proxy of government policy that they do not necessarily support. According to one King’s lecturer, who wished to remain anonymous: “Strike action has an effect. Successful strike action provides unity in the workplace and provides academics with a voice.”
Yet Holly Snaith, a part-time academic and lecturer at Aston University who felt more comfortable providing a comment due to not being part of the immediate action, feels differently. Speaking to Roar!, she claimed: “Nothing about this is good, and I don’t think the strike will do anything to solve the fundamental tensions endemic in higher education policy. I would suggest that students support the strike; but I think, in the end, no sides are winning. Students are consuming a very expensive product, and academics are being rendered expendable in the process.”
It seems not all students are exactly feeling jubilatory at the prospect of missing classes, either. “I’m really annoyed by the strike, because it means I’m losing half my week’s classes that will almost certainly not be rescheduled,” states Clare Gordon, a second year languages student. “They’re classes I need!”
Indeed, considering the lofty sum of money students are now forced to invest into their academic futures, many are questioning whether the strike’s method of disrupting the education of students is entirely fair. Undoubtedly both sides seem to be getting a raw deal out of the circumstances. The question is whether or not this strike, symptomatic of governmental failings, will prove to be a catalyst for improvements in both employment and education sectors everywhere.