‘We don’t want to hurt the students’: We spoke to striking Nottingham University lecturers
The lecturers are striking over pension and pay cuts, and working conditions
University of Nottingham lecturers are striking today on University Park Campus over pension and pay cuts, and working conditions. The lecturers are taking part in the UCU strike, hailed to be the biggest of its kind in modern teaching history.
At 150 universities across the UK, over 70,000 staff are taking part in three days of strike action. We spoke to them as the strike begun.
The general consensus amongst lecturers is that there is frustration at management who have “no interest in meeting with staff.” One lecturer said that if strike demands are not met, then there is the “potential for months of strikes and boycotts.”
It seemed apparent that the day-to-day workload for lecturers has become too much, particularly amongst staff with temporary contracts, “who have to apply for new jobs every six months”. Lecturers say that “employers have offered a pay ‘increase’ of just 3 per cent” which has been squashed as “a massive cut relative to inflation”.
Whilst the issue is complex and there are many layers as to why staff are striking, lecturers want to make it clear that “a lot of the issues are resolvable”. Lecturers see solutions to the working conditions and “want students to get involved with what’s going on”.
Lecturers “don’t want to hurt students”, and feel supported by them. They said that those who choose not to support them “have little grounding.” It seemed that the reality for some lecturers is that if little changes with working conditions, they “would consider leaving the profession,” with one saying “it’s my dream to stay in academia but the current conditions could force me out for the sake of my wellbeing”.
Currently, the Students’ Union currently having a referendum on its position when it comes to the UCU Industrial Action. Voting closes on Friday 25th March at 4pm and you can vote here.
We spoke to a lecturer who wasn’t striking who said that whilst they supported their colleagues, the issue has “become too divisive”, adding “staff should be striking at the same time as vital support staff”.
A University of Nottingham spokesperson responded to the claims made by lecturers with the following statement:
“Although this is a national industrial dispute, the University of Nottingham is already acting locally to address many of the issues – much of which has been agreed with our UCU Branch. You can read our joint agreement here which includes measures to review workloads, tackle casualisation and reduce gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps.
“Whilst staff pay is negotiated at a national level, at Nottingham all staff at levels four, five and six have received a minimum of six per cent additional pay this year because the University has made local payments of three per cent on top of the nationally negotiated award of three per cent. For staff at lower grades (levels one, two and three) we are implementing a three-year pay award which totals 18.5 per cent – with 8.2 per cent awarded this year – a pay award that exceeds any other offer available in the higher education sector.
“The pension scheme faced a significant gap in its most recent valuation between what it promised to pay its members and what was actually available to pay from the pension pot. Backed up by an additional £1.3 billion support from universities, changes were made to avoid staff and employers having to pay far more than was affordable to maintain the scheme as it was. The pension scheme will undergo its next valuation in 2023 and, subject to consultation, the University of Nottingham has committed to supporting the improvement of staff benefits or the reduction of contribution levels to the scheme.
“The University will remain fully open during the strikes, and students should assume that lectures, seminars and classes will take place unless notified otherwise. In the event of disruption to your learning, we will look to reschedule sessions, provide resources through Moodle, extend deadlines where helpful and ensure that assessments reflect the learning that has taken place. For help and advice during the strikes please read our student FAQs.”