Frustrated Edinburgh University staff privately voted to postpone ‘unfair’ marking boycott
94 per cent of Edinburgh’s UCU members voted to abandon the marking boycott
Staff at the University of Edinburgh privately voted to abandon the forthcoming marking boycott this week, due to frustrations about the poor organisation of the action and the minimal impact it would have had.
It was confirmed on Friday that the previously-announced marking boycott, due to commence on Monday 23 May, had been called off at Edinburgh Uni whilst other UK universities would proceed.
Speaking exclusively to The Edinburgh Tab, a UCU insider said that there was no appetite among staff to miss out on even more pay by striking and boycotting, given the extent of strike action that has occurred through the academic year.
Universities across the country are thought to be clamping down hard on participation in strike action including through severe pay docking, which has discouraged further action at Edinburgh. “The cost of living isn’t helping”, one academic told The Edinburgh Tab.
94 per cent of members of Edinburgh’s University and College Union (UCU) branch, which organises industrial action, voted to abandon the boycott in favour of a later date. Internal communications show that UCU members at Edinburgh believed the boycott would begin too late in the academic year.
With many staff having concluded marking duties, it would have had little impact on studies and thus wielded minimal influence in ongoing national negotiations regarding pay, workload, and inequality at UK universities.
It is believed that UCU Edinburgh members intend to reserve the boycott action until August or December, “hitting hard” at the start of the 2022/23 academic year.
One Edinburgh Uni academic took to Twitter to explain her frustrations about the organisation of the boycott. Dr Valny, a teaching fellow in Modern European History wrote that the boycott would be “fundamentally unfair” because tutors who are still marking assessments would receive more anger from students than those who have concluded their work.
“The thought of being left out in the cold while others are finished is terrifying and causes anxiety”, she went on.
The mood within Edinburgh’s UCU branch is thought to be tense, with members frustrated at the poor timing of the industrial action and the union being forced to publicly U-turn on Friday afternoon.
However, members still have full confidence in the union and its ability to help staff improve working conditions. An Edinburgh Uni tutor said: “People are tired of having the strikes, not the strikes themselves”, and that industrial action is the only available method through which to achieve change.
Grant Buttars, spokesperson for UCU Edinburgh, said: “The boycott at Edinburgh has been paused, not cancelled. We are at a point in the calendar when there is little to boycott, so members took a view that this was not a viable time to begin this action. In the meantime, we are throwing our weight behind branches which are going ahead with the boycott until such time as we can join in.
Although we will not be boycotting immediately, all other aspects of Action Short of Strike resume on Mon 23rd and members’ commitment to both disputes remains undiminished. Meanwhile, we again call on the University of Edinburgh to use its weight and influence in the sector, and specifically within both UCEA and UUK, to find a just and sustainable resolution to both disputes. If there is no movement from the employers, there is a strong possibility of further strike action.
Higher Education cannot be delivered on the cheap, with overwork, precarious employment, pay erosion, pay inequality and robbing us of security in retirement. Staff and students deserve so much better.”