Members of the University and Colleges Union (UCU) walked out of their workplaces in a strike over unfair contracts and gender inequality. The strike began on November 25 and will last till December 4, affecting more than a week’s worth of classes across the UK. The Union members have stated that university staff and lecturers have been pushed to a “breaking point” and that a strike was necessary.
The Union has also accused several university administrations of using what they called “strong-arm tactics”, which included asking students to snitch on their teachers who would join the strike and also threatening wage reduction.
Nevertheless more than 40,000 teachers, librarians and other full-time university staff are participating in the general strike called by the UCU earlier this month, on November 5. Thousands more are expected to join as more university staff unions have applied to participate in the strike. Over 60 universities are facing pickets and labor disputes by UCU members, along with support from several student organizations, while the working of more than half the 160 or universities have come to a grinding halt.
The UCU has called the strike over multitudes of issues, especially severe wage cuts, increasing workload and changes to pensions for staff under the University Superannuation Scheme (USS), which according to several workers can bring down pensions as much as half. The new proposed changes in the USS pensions is that the employees’ contribution would increase, putting a greater pressure on their wages, which in turn leads to many of the low-paying workers to opt out.
The UCU has also raised the issue of a gender gap as high as 15% in wages and a racial gap of close to 12% for Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) teachers and staff. They have also spoken against casualization of labor, that several universities in the UK have taken up as a model for such low paying jobs as maintenance and security.
Universities have not responded favorably to the strike, but the unions are determined. The UCU has also stated that it is open to continuing the strike in the next year as well.