University lecturers’ union to start further six days of strike action

By Juniper Rose

University lecturers are to resume their strike action from tomorrow (WEDSMarch15) to run every day until Wednesday next week.

The dates for the continued strike action by lecturers’ union the UCU were announced on February 28 while talks continued over pay, working conditions and other elements.

Standing together: UCU strikers and students supporting them at Leeds University

Various strike days had been held in November and February but were then paused while talks took place, although action short of a strike continued.

UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said the reason for these further strike dates was to “focus the employers mind as talks come to a conclusion.”

Talks and negotiations are set to come to a close at the end of this week and the start of next week, but Ms Grady said employers need to have “on them the maximum amount of pressure” in order to push for a better outcome for staff following negotiations. 

A researcher at De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester, who did not want to be named, said, until the workload on staff is addressed, they felt no real progress could be made in the dispute.

They said a workload survey provided to DMU by the UCU branch provided “shocking results” from teaching staff.

“The survey shows shocking results in particular about health damages to staff due to the current workload system,” they said, giving the example of block teaching as a method of teaching which is “very problematic” in relation to workloads.

They added: “I hope that by seeing their teachers on strike, the students can reflect about their teacher’s determination to fight for a better university.

“I am sure no students likes to see their teachers stressed, tired, and unable to spend five extra minuets to talk about an assessment, their worries, or to explore career options.”

The union says many lecturers are in support of the strikes as the workload, pay, working conditions and casualisation of contracts are having a massively negative impact on staff as well as the quality of education they are able to offer to their students. There has also been an overwhelming amount of support for the strikes from university students. 

Matt Reay, a Politics and International Relations student from the University of Leicester, said: “I feel the progress was somewhat getting better despite the fact that unions have felt the need to go for more strikes.”

He added that the union’s actions display that “clearly the demands need to be met to ensure a greater education for those who pay for it and those who are providing it.”

He feels the strikes have had a “somewhat interesting effect on students,” with most seeming to support the strikes, but others wanting a full and fair education because they are paying money for it.

Matt believes the inadequate pay being given to university staff is something that universities need to work on to “ensure their lecturers are fairly paid for their work.” 

Alex Burt, a Politics and Sociology student from the University of Leicester, said they do not feel they are in a place to comment on the progress made before the announcement of upcoming strikes.

They added: “However, I do hope they are closer to a resolution so that the disruption and instability can end.

“The strikes will have an obvious impact on studies, but so does unsupported and overworked staff.”

They also complained that the support offered to students by universities was poor and it was unclear what students are actually being offered.

“In a marketised system, students become cash cows while staff become a drain on the profit margin rather than being treated as the lifeblood of the university that they are,” they said. 

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