Staff explain why you should support the planned strikes

Staff are currently voting on whether to strike later this year, here’s why in their own words

University of Manchester staff in the Universities and Colleges Union are currently voting on whether to go on strike later this year. 

The UCU says the dispute is over falling pay, pension cuts, pay gaps and insecure contracts.

UCU General Secretary, Jo Grady told students to “Direct your anger at the people in charge”.

She argues, “We have to ask why university managers, year after year, are happy to let chaos reign in the sector because they either won’t pay staff properly, put staff on proper contracts and stop attacking their pensions.”

Now UCU staff at Manchester have written a letter calling on students to support their actions and explaining why they’re planning to strike in their own words:

Our working conditions are your learning conditions

“We want you to know that we strike for you as well as for ourselves: our working conditions are your learning conditions, and the stronger a labour movement we have in this country, the better you will be able to fight for your own working conditions when you move into the workforce.”

Pay gaps 

“Lack of government support has led not only to higher costs for you, but also to increased problems in how we work. They include very real working inequalities – very high gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps for instance, where the average man at our university is paid 17.2 percent more than the average woman.”

Insecure contracts

“Over two-thirds of us are estimated to be working on some kind of casual contract, whether short-term or hourly-paid, with rare guarantees of hours.

“Our workloads have also increased rapidly, and many of us work in excess of 50 hour weeks to fulfil the demands of the job, far more than what we are contracted for.

“These conditions can make it difficult to have a good work-life balance, to enjoy time with our families, and the stress and uncertainty means that time we would like to be spending on helping you is spent worrying, exhausted, or applying for the next job.”

Declining pay

“Our pay has been declining in real terms for at least a decade, and recent proposals to change our pensions will see us on average £240,000 worse off when we eventually retire, and hitting early career colleagues the hardest.”

Nancy Rothwell is refusing our requests 

“Unfortunately our President, Nancy Rothwell, is currently opposed to our requests.

 “Strikes are what happen when agreements can’t be made without workers taking action. They result in cancelled classes and reduced staff, which can cause a lot of anxiety for students.

“But this disruption is necessary for things to change, because it pressures management to recognize that we, your teachers and staff, are what the university needs to run, not profit margins. But if and when we strike, we pledge to do everything we can to communicate clearly to you what it means for our interactions, classes and degrees.”

 A better university system

“If university management continues to ignore the concerns of lecturers, tutors, librarians, technicians, and others, we will have to go on strike. We will strike in order to fight for a better university system, one which treats staff and students with respect, and puts education and research first, over fees and rent. 

“We think this will result in a better university for you, your siblings and kids, and for current and future staff. We hope that you will lend us your support and solidarity, as you have before, and we look forward to chatting more with you about the issues in classes, by email, or when you see us on campus.”

 How can you help?

You and your parents and your friends can help by writing to your vice-chancellors to ask the industry bodies UCEA and UUK to negotiate in good faith with the campus trade unions in order to avoid potential strikes.”

A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “Our belief is that to propose industrial action after the serious disruption of the past 18 months is deeply regrettable and unnecessary. We recognise how important these issues are to our staff, but are concerned that any action will negatively affect our students’ experience.

“On the specific matter of pay and pensions, universities negotiate these nationally through UCEA and Universities UK, so we are unable to make any changes at a local, Manchester level.

“In the event of industrial action, we will do everything we can to protect our students’ experience and keep them fully informed.”

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Cast your vote today and have your say on how the SU is run