Thursday, 31 October 2013

Solidarity with university lecturers and students

31 October will be a day of coordinated strike action by UCU, Unison and Unite members working in universities. This is the first UK-wide joint action between these Higher Education unions, demonstrating the anger that their members feel about the employers' insulting 1% pay increase. The real wages of academics have fallen by 13% since 2008, one of the largest sustained wage cuts any profession has suffered since the Second World War." This is despite the scandalously high fees charged to students, which have subsidised lavish pay at the upper echelons of university management while ordinary teaching, research, and support staff struggle. We want a publicly funded system of Higher Education, free at the point of use and paying a fair wage to its workers. In addition to real-terms pay cuts, casualisation of all jobs is rife in the sector, including use of fixed-term, hourly-paid and even the now-infamous zero-hour contracts. This job insecurity together with management bullying and excessive workloads will also motivate UCU members to undertake a 'work to contract' following the strike day. Many student organisations, including official student unions, have offered support. It will be vital to build on these links and make clear to students that this industrial action strengthens their fight for free education, particularly if exam marking ends up being affected. Already propaganda about the USS pension scheme has tried to pit students against staff - in fact this scheme is healthy by any reasonable measure, and a bizarre accounting practice is being used to claim students will end up 'bailing out' their lecturers' pensions. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this and similar falsehoods will be peddled by the Con-Dem government and their media chums if the dispute continues. A serious fighting strategy could see a victory in the form of a significantly improved pay offer. But ultimately the dispute has arisen from the politics and experience of austerity. We need to make links with other unions - HE workers already look to the dispute involving the teachers' unions NUT and NASUWT Who have unfortunately called off their action for this year which is a huge crime in my opinion A last mention has to go to Sussex University and Sheffield University who have gone into occupation tonight in solidarity with the staff in the universities tomorrow and beyond. This could be a restart of the student movement and crucially without the support of the NUS and the NCAFC who are not present in either of these occupations at all. A statement below is carried by occupy Sussex. Once again students at Sussex University have come out in solidarity with staff struggles on their campus. Over the past year they have been waging a struggle with a united front of teaching staff, support/catering staff and students to object to on-campus privatisation. In this time they have innovated the pop-up union as a way to forge cross-union cross-trade solidarity, and have held some of the largest student demonstrations outside of London in recent years. You can follow them on twitter @occupy Sussex A great short You tube video from novara fm weekly show co host James butler can be watched here about the strike Remember don’t cross a picket line. If unsure contact your local union or student union.

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