Lancaster UCU give statement on strike action

‘This dispute is entirely of the employers making’

Lancaster UCU have released a statement regarding their decision to join the most recent strike action, taking place throughout February and March.

The Lancaster UCU have already taken part in one strike this academic year, which occurred in early December 2021.

The UCU stands to achieve and maintain fair wages, pensions, and job security among other factors.

The UCU said: “Lancaster University staff are being forced to go on strike again to protect our pension, and to fight for fair wages, pay equality, secure jobs, and manageable workloads.”

They believe “this dispute is entirely of the employers making. We have been on strike thrice now in three years, because the employers keep coming back to attack our hard-earned pension. This is especially frustrating after staff worked flat-out during the pandemic to keep universities up and running.”

According to the UCU, “The warm words from university management about their commitment to student’s education and wellbeing ring hollow, as the employers could have easily prevented this round of strike action by meaningfully negotiating with us. Instead, they have chosen to prioritise profits over staff and students.”

Lancaster UCU “would much rather be teaching and doing our normal work” and explained that they “seriously regret having to continue this dispute” since they are concerned about the “negative effect” the strikes will have on students.

“But the facts of the matter are that our pensions are being unnecessarily and radically cut by 35 per cent, threatening our ability to retire. Pay has fallen by 20 per cent, after twelve years of below-inflation pay offers; one third of academic staff are on insecure contracts; the gender pay gap sits at 15 per cent and the latest figures show that only 27 per cent of professors are women and 1 per cent are black; and staff are experiencing a crisis of work-related stress with >50 per cent showing probable signs of depression.”

The UCU explained that even after the “current period of strikes is over”, they will be partaking in “Action Short of Strike”, meaning that “all of the extra, unpaid, after-hours work we usually do for the university will stop”, and “unless university management agrees to negotiate a fair deal, a second round of strike will be announced after the vacation, and we will boycott assessments and marking”. 

They finished their statement saying: “UCU members hugely appreciate the support we are receiving from students and the wider public. This dispute is not just about pensions. It is part of a bigger fight for a higher education system in which students are NOT left in debt and their teachers are NOT left impoverished. Employers can prevent this disruption, if they choose to stop their attacks on our pension and work with UCU for a resolution of the dispute instead of stubbornly refusing to negotiate.”

A Lancaster University spokesperson said:

“A small number of staff at Lancaster University are participating in this week’s national industrial action which sees 68 UK universities take part in strike action.

“The action follows two separate national ballots in November 2021 – one over the recent USS pension valuation, and one over sector pay and working conditions –  in which UCU members voted in favour of taking strike action across a number of universities.

“Staff across the University are taking steps to try to ensure there is as little disruption as possible for students during this time. As not all staff are members of the staff union the impact of the strike will be varied across different parts of the University. Where disruption has been unavoidable we are deeply sorry.

“Departments are notifying students how they can obtain help and advice during the industrial action and those students with concerns specific to their programme should approach a member of department such as their Programme Director or Supervisor.”

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