University staff and civil servants to strike
University staff and civil servants will strike today as the wave of industrial action continues to sweep the UK.
More than 70,000 members of the University and College Union (UCU) will begin the first of three successive days of strike action across 150 universities in the UK this week, which threaten disruption to students’ lectures and seminars.
The UCU confirmed on Monday evening that it will reballot its members to allow university staff to take further industrial action through the rest of the academic year if their demands are not met by employers.
The announcement came as the UCU entered talks with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which represents 144 employers, via the conciliation service Acas.
The UCEA has made a pay offer of between 5% and 8%, which had been rejected by the union.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Staff are striking because they are sick of being denied a decent pay rise, secure employment, and proper pensions.
“And students are standing with us because they know that staff working conditions are their learning conditions.
“Our union is determined to reach a negotiated settlement which allows staff to get back to work and students to continue their studies uninterrupted.
“But that can only happen if vice chancellors come out of hiding and use a fraction of the sector’s vast wealth to make serious, well-rounded offers to staff.”
Raj Jethwa, UCEA’s chief executive, said: “It is disappointing that UCU has confirmed it will re-ballot on the day that these Acas talks have started.
“It is saddening if even a single student is impacted by the 18 days of strike action that UCU has already asked its member to take, and we hope that these Acas talks will help to resolve this dispute.”
Commercial Srvices (PCS) union members are also on strike this week at the Department for Work and Pensions, DVLA and the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
They will be joined by Border Force staff in Dover, Calais, Coquelles and Dunkirk on Friday.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our hard-working members are sorry they’re taking this action during half term because their working life is dedicated to sharing information with people, especially young people learning about the exhibits and artefacts in the British Museum.
“That they are taking this action shows how strongly they feel taken for granted by the Government. The Prime Minister has the power to end this strike tomorrow, but he’s nowhere to be seen.”
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak, who will join a picket line at the British Museum on Tuesday, said: “Nobody takes the decision to strike lightly. But the Conservative government is pushing workers like these museum staff into a corner by refusing to engage in serious pay negotiations.
“We all want these pay disputes to be quickly resolved. And that can happen if the Chancellor and Prime Minister do the right thing and come to the negotiating table with credible pay offers.
“Until then, unions will hold firm, because we know that decent pay rises are possible – it comes down to political choices.”
The National Education Union (NEU) had planned to take strike action in schools in Wales on Tuesday, but the walkout was suspended last week after a new pay offer was made by the Welsh government.
Teaching union leaders will meet with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan on Wednesday in a bid to resolve a pay dispute which threatens further walkouts in schools across England in February and March.
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Good luck and best wishes to all UCU members. Recently I have worked at two of our universities and I’ve witnessed the dramatic fall in morale amongst staff in the last few years. Bureaucracy and micro-management, obsessed with trivia, are to the fore whilst front line teaching, and quality time research, has been put on the back burner. Disgracefully, academics are forced to work outside their specialist areas, often with little or no support. These are very sad times across Higher Education, and the students are being short changed.
Pitting students against their tutors is a wicked tactic but I heard a history student on the radio complain that after 4 years in higher education she had not yet learnt to study on her own two feet. When you stop to recall the dross that have been the ministers for education for years it should come as no surprise…
So much learning is by rote, ordered from above. Few students are encouraged to undertake independent research – very dangerous, and doesn’t tick the right boxes for management. Talking of whom, they love pitting student vs. lecturer – divide and rule tactics!