STAFF STRIKE: Gender gaps, pay disputes and cancelled supervisions
Exam term hots up as Cambridge University staff strike over pay disputes.
“After six years of pay cuts and relentless demands to do more for less,” university staff in Cambridge have said enough is enough.
As part of an ongoing dispute over pay, gender equality and secure contracts, the university staff trade union UCU is taking national industrial action today (Wednesday 25th) and tomorrow (Thursday 26th), following a 1.1% (below inflation) pay increase and no serious commitment to tackling casualisation or the gender pay gap.
There is currently a gender pay gap of 12.6% in higher education, amounting to an average shortfall of £6,103 per year for each female academic. The gap is larger at institutions in the Russell Group, of which Cambridge is a part.
The two-day national strike will see a work-to-contract continuing until the end of the dispute (members of the UCU will refuse to work overtime, set additional work, or undertake any voluntary duties like covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues).
Several Cambridge students have had supervisions cancelled or rearranged as a result of the protest.
In one email to students, one Supervisor from King’s stated, “Staff accepting year-on-year real terms pay cuts will not benefit those on low salaries and insecure contracts. While it is true that many academic staff are relatively well-paid, many are not.”
Cambridge UCU members will be taking strike action, running picket lines throughout Wednesday morning at Old School, Downing, New Museum, Sidgwick and West Cambridge sites. A joint rally with Anglia Ruskin University will also take place.
Picketers must be Cambridge UCU members who are part of the dispute. However, staff are being strongly encouraged to show solidarity by visiting the picket lines, handing out leaflets around the city centre and helping to make up placards.
If no agreement is reached in the coming weeks, members have agreed to further strike action targeting open days and graduation ceremonies in June and July. Dr. Waseem Yaqoob, Cambridge UCU’s Research Staff rep has asserted that “members of UCU will be continuing industrial action until we can get the employers to see sense.”
Speaking to The Tab, the same Fellow has expressed concern over the strikes having a particularly local dimension: “Cambridge is the third most expensive city to live in […] We are particularly concerned about how the declining value of academic pay and job insecurity makes life very difficult for staff here trying to get housing and plan families.”
He has defended that “we don’t want to disrupt the education of students: we are striking as a last resort to defend conditions that allow us to provide the sort of teaching and research that makes an institution like Cambridge worth coming too and working at.”
The union is also beginning preparations for a boycott of the setting and marking of students’ work, which will begin in the autumn if an acceptable offer has not been met.
Whilst students might not always see the worth of supervisions, in typical fashion, they stand to endure the brunt if the union is unsatisfied with the offers made.