48-hour strike to go ahead as university staff reject pay offer

Over 70,000 staff at 150 universities across the UK will take strike action tomorrow and Friday.

University strike

University staff are gearing up for a 48-hour walkout starting tomorrow, February 9, after overwhelmingly rejecting a ‘low-ball’ pay offer.

Over 70,000 staff at 150 universities across the UK will take strike action tomorrow and Friday which will affect 2.5 million students.

The latest offer from employers was a 5% pay award – a real-terms pay cut – which was rejected by 80% of members from the University and College Union (UCU).

UCU have accused university bosses of being ‘in hiding’ for failing to provide an improved pay offer or to engage in negotiations.

Key to the demands is addressing insecure employment practices and workloads, with over 90,000 university staff on insecure contracts, and staff working an average of two extra days unpaid per week.

Members are also seeking an improved pension deal following a package of cuts made last year, that will see the average member lose 35% of their guaranteed future retirement income.

UCU is demanding employers revoke the cuts and restore benefits.

With reserves worth a whopping £44 billion and a yearly income of over £42 billion, the sector itself has admitted it would only cost 3% of their reserves to settle UCU’s pay claims.

Their highest paid vice-chancellor earned £714,000 in 2021/22, however none of the sector’s 150 vice-chancellors have so far answered Kay Burley of Sky News’s request for interview.

The UCU also started their very own ‘Liz Truss lettuce’ yesterday, after requesting university bosses to debate with them on the current dispute.

They asking on Twitter, ‘what will last longer, the lettuce or bosses decision not to talk?’

Ru, a Tutor at University of Westminster on strike last week, told LFF that she still relies on money from her parents despite working at the university.

She said: “I feel very sorry that we have to strike because it’s a shame for the international students who came here for one or two years to study and their time is being wasted.

“But with our wages and living costs, it’s just crazy.”

She highlighted wage inequality within the teaching system, with some tutors paid three times higher than others, stating there is ‘something wrong with the system’.

“I came from a course that only had one full-time tutor and the rest were part-time.

“For me as a student it was insane, and then I became a tutor and saw their experiences first-hand and how ridiculous it is.

“You are getting such low pay which doesn’t make sense with the tuition fees the students are paying right now, and the facilities are not expanding with the growth in the number of students.”

Ru was joined on the picket line by her student Asif Shahriar who wanted to show his support in solidarity with his lecturers.

Asif said: “I noticed that staff here work really hard, yet don’t get the sufficient amount back.

“I think the government should look after the workers. If we don’t improve our education system, we won’t have great minds to develop new things in the future.”

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

(Photo credit: Hannah Davenport)

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

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