University workers fight for better pay

Submitted by Matthew on 6 November, 2013 - 1:46

On 31 October, Higher Education workers in three unions (UCU, Unite, and Unison) struck against a 1% pay offer. Here, we feature snippets from picket lines around the country.

“The consensus from UCU members on the picket line was that there should be a “‘general strike” (their words), by which they meant more coordinated public sector strike action.”

University of Northampton

“There were around a dozen pickets from all three unions at each of the main entrances to University of East Anglia (UEA) all morning.

They were lively despite the showers, and busy, but no-one, or hardly anyone, turned away.

Ideas for escalation include a work-to-contract and a probable marking-boycott after Christmas. I learned a bit more about the extent of zero-hours contracts among the outsourced catering staff (who are in Unison), and the willingness of all three unions to come out together and share experiences and views was obviously a big plus.”

UCU activist, UEA

“Good turn-out for picket lines at Sheffield Uni.

We’ve recruited five new members over the past fortnight. Very few lecturers crossing picket lines into our building, but a rather different picture with the poorly-unionised lower grades (especially Unison).

Elsewhere on campus the picture was more mixed, but there was good support generally from students.

About 200 marched into town from Sheffield Uni to join 100 from Hallam for a rally — too many for the room we’d booked, so we had to hold it outside.”

UCU activist, University of Sheffield

“Faced with a workforce divided between multiple trade unions, rank-and-file activists decided to step in and build for the strike themselves.

Members of Workers’ Liberty, working with fellow union members on campus, helped produce the third edition of the University of London workplace bulletin The Open Book and hurried it out in time for the strike.

The first article advertised a cross-union rank-and-file meeting for a couple of days before the strike to plan picket lines and build awareness among colleagues. Further leaflets were also produced and were handed out by lay union members outside Senate House. In the event, around twenty workers from different unions attended the meeting and firm plans were made to have picket lines on the day.

On the morning of the strike itself, there was an official UCU picket on the Russell Square entrance to Senate House. Due to the organisation of the network of workers around the bulletin, there were enough members of other unions on strike that day to set up pickets covering two other entrances to the building.

The next step is to set up a more durable cross-union committee bringing together members from all the unions on campus to discuss how to keep action going throughout this dispute.”

Unison/IWGB member, University of London

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