In solidarity with the UCU strike!
The strike in the UK universities, which started today, shows the accumulated anger of university workers against the increasing attacks of employers on industrial relations. Even though this widespread attack is officially expressed by the employers’ leadership, it is clearly supported and further deepened by the Conservative government.
After the longest strike that has been recorded in the history of higher education against the pensions system reform in 2018, the employers did not consider the strength of unity and fight. They ignored the recommendations of the independent Joint Expert Panel, formed to provide solutions for the pension system, and increased the employees’ pension contributions from 6.5% to 9.6% from October 2019. This, alongside the continuing and increasing job precarity, has led to another victorious ballot call for strike, breaking in practice the anti-union law that requires 50.1% participation to consider a ballot legal.
Apart from the pension dispute, wages and working conditions are of great importance in the current strike. In the wider context of the commercialisation of British universities, the 50 hours working week, according to figures from UCU, and the major increase in the number of teaching and research staff that works on fixed-term, casual, and zero-hours contracts with no rights and security have become a common phenomenon. The worsening of working conditions is also clearly reflected in the fact that higher education employees’ wages have dropped by 17% in real terms since 2009.
The commercialisation of universities should be seen in relation to the further privatisation and financialisation of higher education and the increasingly precarious and insecure industrial relations in universities, manifested in workers’ increasing psychological stress due to the constant requirement to increase productivity.
The early days of the strike proved not only the determination of the university workers but also the strength of student solidarity. From the beginning, employers attempted to use the consequences of the strike to the students to intimidate academics that would participate in the strike. The students’ response was clear through both the numerous motions of support to the strike by student unions and the students’ daily presence on the picket lines.
The current strike has the potential to continue the discussion that started in 2018 for the content and orientation of the university movement, to strengthen self-confidence in organising resistance against the commercialisation of education and to contribute to overcoming contradictions within the union by reinforcing radical voices and paths. It can also show the necessity for a wider alliance of workers and students which would lead to the open questioning of the neoliberal agenda of both the EU and the Conservative government here, and the limits of the class compromise that still lies at the core of the Labour’s agenda, putting at the forefront the need for radical alternatives to the increasing attacks to public education in the UK.
ANTARSYA UK expresses its solidarity with the UCU strike and its members fully support it in practice!
For a strong and successful strike!