Students take to picket lines in solidarity with university strikes

Over 70,000 staff from 150 universities across the UK are striking this week

University strikes

University lecturers on strike this week are being joined by their students in a show of solidarity for better pay and conditions.

This week, over 70,000 staff from 150 universities across the UK are striking for three consecutive days, affecting nearly 2 million undergraduate students.

Students at universities across the country came out to applaud strikers and offer their support for the industrial action so far.

Social work students at Manchester University provided their lecturers with coffee, food, cards and flowers to show their support.

Whilst students from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London took to the picket line with their lecturers, with one student saying on Twitter, ‘it was so great to be able to have a big open discussion with other students about what we can do to support the strikes.’

The National Union of Students (NUS) organised a staff-student solidarity day on February 9th, in recognition that staff and student conditions go hand in hand.

The NUS said that staff teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions, and that they must fight together for a fairer, healthier education system for those who work and study.  

University and College Union (UCU) is calling on employers for a ‘meaningful’ pay rise to tackle huge cuts to university staff wages, as well as commitments on casualisation and staff workload.

Since 2009/10, university staff pay has declined in value by 25% relative to RPI, whilst the higher education sector held £44 billion in reserves in 2021/22.

There are over 90,000 university staff on insecure contracts with staff working an average of two extra days unpaid per week.

Staff in the teaching sector have come out to condemn the precarious nature of higher education employment and its reliance on casual labour.

Hugh Jones, a University Administrator, said on Twitter that, ‘the business model for higher education in the UK is not working. A core element at many universities is casual academic labour on precarious contracts, which isn’t sustainable.’

Unions have entered into negotiations with employer representatives at Acas this week with UCU General Secretary, Jo Grady, announcing today she believes the talks are ‘worthwhile’ and that they will continue.

Addressing members in a video link, Grady said: “Ultimately we want to change the sector for everyone that works in it.

“As a union we are making progress. I want you to know everything is very finely balanced at this time, but we will bring a significant update soon.”

She announced they believed pensions could be restored to the level previous had in April 2022, before they were cut, one of the conditions being disputed.

UCU members have also launched a reballot of 70,000 members to allow industrial action to continue for the rest of the academic year, if employers refuse to meet demands over pay and conditions.

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

(Photo credit: UCU Branch – CSSD / Twitter)

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

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