By Kat Birch
The University of Hull was one of many universities hit by industrial action over the last week of November. University staff, including administrators, lecturers and academics, set up picket lines at both entrances to the university on the 24th, 25th and 30th November. Students at the University of Hull would have been hard pressed not to have noticed the bright pink UCU banners, picket signs, and pamphlets displaying the message; ‘Enough is Enough’.
But what is the dispute over, and why were staff striking?
The nationwide strikes came after members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) overwhelmingly voted in favour of industrial action earlier in the year. The ballots came in response to an ongoing dispute over pay, working conditions, and pension cuts, as well as the fact that a third of academic staff are on temporary or zero hours contracts, according to the UCU website.
It was reported that over the three days, more than 70,000 staff at 150 universities across the UK participated in walkouts and industrial action, making it the biggest higher education strike in history.
The General Secretary of the UCU, Jo Grady, who joined the picket line at the University of Strathclyde, said that university staff “have had enough of falling pay, pension cuts and gig-economy working conditions.”
“Staff are burnt out, but they are fighting back and they will bring the whole sector to a standstill.”
What has the response been?
The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) have closed 2022-23 negotiations over pay, but have offered to bring forward the 2023-24 negotiations, in the hope that a deal can be reached in the next 18 months.
The chief executive of UCEA, Raj Jethwa, has said in response to the strikes that: “[higher education] institutions are particularly disappointed that UCU is encouraging its members to target students who have endured so many recent disruptions.”
In response to employer backlash, UCU General Secretary Jo Grady claimed that: “Vice-chancellors only have themselves to blame. Their woeful leadership has led to the biggest vote for strike action ever in our sector.”
What do students have to say?
There has been a mixed response to the strikes from university students across the country, with some being disappointed at the loss of teaching time, and others taking to social media to express their support for staff on the picket lines.
The official statement from the National Union of Students’ (NUS) following the announcement of the strikes, claimed that: “Students stand in solidarity with the 70,000 university staff across the UK who will strike later this month. Staff teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions, and we must fight together for a fairer, healthier education system for everyone who works and studies.”
Both current and past students at the University of Hull, complete with picket signs, hot drinks and even donuts, were spotted supporting the UCU strikes outside campus on all three days of industrial action in November.
Image Credit: Leon Wu via Unsplash