A guide to the UCU strikes

From the 25th November to the 4th December, UCU members in sixty universities across the country are going on strike. These include not only your lecturers, but also your tutors, researchers, librarians, administrative staff, and other staff employed to run the University. We at qmunicate are here to guide you through their reasons, and what you can do to support them.

 

Why are they striking?

According to UCU branch at the University of Glasgow:

 60% of the staff at the University of Glasgow are on casual contracts, with no security beyond the next few months. 
 There has been a 20% pay cut in real terms since 2009.
 Workload is through the roof, with every week the average worker performing two days of unpaid work.
 There was a local gender pay gap of 16.2% in 2018.
 Pension contributions have once again gone up. 

What can you do to support the strikers?

The easiest thing you can do is to observe the picket line. This includes not attending class or going to university owned buildings such as the library. 

You can write to the principal, Anton Muscatelli, to tell him why you support the strikes.

You can also join the picket line every day between 8am – 11am outside the main gate to show solidarity with those striking. GU Solidarity (Twitter/Facebook) are also holding teach-outs, which are a programme of alternative events on the strike days. These are held in the QMU on level 2, in the old Food Factory space. They are as follows:

Wednesday 27th:

11.00 Power to the Workers: Collectivising Methods for Working Students

12.00 Bureaucratic Violence and Universities

13.00 Banner/sign making

 

Thursday 28th: 

11.00 Migrant workers in the UK economy

12.00 Red&Black song club

13.00 Can socialism save the planet? Trade unions, climate change, & energy democracy

14.00 Zine making workshop

 

Monday 2nd:

11.00 Protest poetry

12.00 Global struggle and strikes + letter writing to comrades abroad

13.00 Planning for a Green New Deal at UofG

14.00 Harm reduction and substance use

 

We also spoke to a couple of students to find out why they are supporting the strikes:

I’m supporting the strike because all workers should be paid fairly and academia should be a place of knowledge and growth, not one of stress and overwork – no one should be working 50+ hours a week on less than minimum wage and,we as students, shouldn’t feel like we have to spend all hours of the day in the library. It’s really important to support the strike as we need to show solidarity with all the universitystaff and ensure that everyone has a safe and respectful working environment. Join the picket lines, share info and come to events that the UCU and Solidarity Collective are running as the treatment of academic staff affects your education. 

[Chris Timmins – he/him – @_plantbot]

 

“I support the strike because I believe in standing with workers as they fight for a better life. I believe we’ll only solve the problems of our troubled world through the power of an organised working class, and therefore any expression of class power against the boss gets my enthusiastic approval. Finally, I support the strike because the whole world is in motion and sadly we’ve been slacking while workers and students everywhere from Haiti and Chile to Lebanon and Iraq face the heat. No longer! It’s time we brought a little piece of the world struggle home.”

[Paul Inglis – he/him]

 

What is the university’s position on it? 

Dr David Duncan, Chief Operating Officer at the University of Glasgow said, While we respect the union’s right to take industrial action we are doing everything possible to minimise disruption to students.  The industrial action is focussed on pay and pensions, both of which are negotiated nationally. On pensions, our view is the same as that of the local UCU branch – the recent increases in contributions (0.8% for staff) were the best way to protect our pensions. On pay, the 2019 settlement was 1.8%, but more than half of staff also received annual salary increments of a further 3%. The university is keen that discussions on the 2020 pay agreement should commence as soon as possible. We have agreed a joint statement with the local branch of UCU and regret any disruption that may be caused to students.

 

They have also released a join statement with UCU Glasgow:


While respecting the right of staff to take industrial action, the University of Glasgow and UCU Glasgow regret the disruption that may be caused to students and are committed to doing whatever we can to minimise it. 

 

UCU Glasgow will:

 

 not discourage students from crossing picket lines or attending classes during the period of strike action
 encourage members to consider informing their students in advance if they are taking action (this is in recognition of the fact that some students could face mobility or financial issues as a consequence of unnecessary travel).
 instruct members to inform their line managers as early as possible whether they have taken industrial action
 instruct members to collaborate in identifying coursework that will not be covered as a consequence of strike action
 instruct members to follow requests from line managers regarding the prioritisation of work when they are not taking industrial action.

 

The University will:

 

 spread pay deductions over two months for those who participate in more than one day of strike action in the period 25 November – 4 December
 continue to pay employer pension contributions for scheme members
 deduct employee contributions as normal irrespective of any reduction in salary unless individual employees advise otherwise.
 for any member applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain, provide the necessary information described in Home Office Immigration Rules.  The University will record absence due to industrial action taken by Tier 2 Visa holders.

 

The University will not deduct pay for action short of a strike which constitutes working to contract.  UCU recognises the right of the University to deduct pay for any action short of a strike which constitutes a breach of the employment contract (including, for example, a refusal to prioritise work in accordance with line manager requests).

 

Regarding the issues under dispute:

 

 While recognising that any increases in pension contributions are regrettable, the University and UCU Glasgow are jointly committed to retaining a defined benefit element of the pension scheme that is affordable.
 On pay, both the University and UCU Glasgow agree that there should be further talks at national level with a view to resolving the dispute.  We welcome the fact that talks have now been agreed and are due to begin on Tuesday 26 November.
 While accepting that more needs to be done, the University and UCU Glasgow acknowledge the real progress that has been made locally on other areas under dispute. This includes:

 

·         a significant reduction in both ‘zero-hour’ working arrangements and formalising responsible employment relationships for our GTA population;

·         a gender pay action plan which has reduced the University’s gender pay gap by some 10% over the past decade, with a 3.5% decrease in the pay gap since 2013/14;

·         the introduction of new caring and flexible working related policies in response to the 2018 Staff Survey

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