89 per cent of students blame ‘uni management’ not ‘staff’ for upcoming strikes
Staff at UoM and MMU are joining 56 other striking unis
Following the announcement of new strikes, a Manchester Tab poll of 697 Manchester students found that 89 per cent said they felt university management were most at fault for the situation reaching this point versus just 11 per cent who said staff were.
In the same poll 95 per cent said they felt university management had handled the situation badly with regards to staff pay and working conditions. 80 per cent of respondents also said they believe staff deserve a pay rise.
On Friday, the UCU announced that staff in their University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan branches had voted to take strike action.
The ballots over pay and working conditions passed with 74 per cent support at UoM and with 79 per cent support at MMU.
In total 58 universities across the country have voted to take strike action. The UCU last went on strike at the end of 2019 and in February 2020 before the pandemic over similar issues and continuing pensions disputes.
UoM Rent Strike issued a solidarity statement with staff saying “staff stood by us all of last year against the very worst management could throw at us, now we’re prepared to do the same for all UoM staff.”
A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “It is deeply regrettable that UCU members have voted for strike action. We do recognise how important pensions, pay and employment conditions are to colleagues and we take those views very seriously. However, inevitably any kind of industrial action causes serious disruption for our community, and particularly our students, after such an extended period of pandemic upheaval.
“There were two ballots which eligible members of UCU voted upon.
“In the ballot on changes to the USS pension arrangement, our turnout was 49.95 per cent of eligible UCU members, so failed to reach the legal 50% threshold required to give a mandate for strike action. 78 per cent (807 staff) of those who voted were in favour of strike action. In total, we have about 6,300 USS members across the University.
“In the separate vote on pay and employment conditions, the turnout of eligible UCU members was 50.4%, so just exceeding the 50% threshold. 74% (728 staff) of those voting in this ballot were in favour of strike action, yet we have a total of over 12,000 staff across the University all of whom are affected by pay and conditions.
“Pay and pensions, are negotiated nationally by UCEA and UUK respectively, so we are unable to make any changes at a local, Manchester level. We continue to work hard to address other aspects of employment which were raised in the ballot such as the nature of contracts and gender and ethnicity pay gaps.
“We do not yet have confirmation on what or when action will be taken by UCU, or indeed if further ballots will happen at a local or national level. This may become clearer in the coming days with UCU’s Higher Education Committee meeting on Friday 12th November. It remains our hope that action can be avoided.
“We will of course keep colleagues fully informed as we receive more clarity. We’d like to reassure our students that we will do everything we can to minimise any impact on their teaching, learning and wider experience and will communicate further details as soon as we have them.”
A spokesperson for MMU said: “We are disappointed by the outcome of the UCU ballot, particularly after a great start to the academic year back on campus. We are now awaiting further decisions on the UCU’s next steps.
“It is unclear at this stage whether they may seek a new national ballot or take individual action on pay and conditions at the 54 institutions which achieved the required threshold for strike action in the ballot.
“In the meantime, we will do our utmost to minimise any potential disruption to students’ teaching and learning and we continue to work closely with the leaders of our Students’ Union. We remain committed to continuing the work we have already been doing to address the concerns raised in the ballot.”