Students at the University of Manchester have launched an occupation protest in solidarity with University and College Union strikes. Students, including members of the Young Communist League, are occupying UOM’s Samuel Alexander building in support of university staff’s fight for improved pay and working conditions. This comes as university workers across the country engage in three days of strike action, from the 1st to the 3rd of December.
UCU members are striking at 58 universities across Britain, following years of below-inflation pay rises. In the last twelve years, lecturers’ pay has fallen by 20%. This is despite an increased workload, and the expectation that staff work regularly outside of their paid hours. A UCU survey of working conditions found 86% of staff have been directed to mental health services over stress.
At the same time as regular worker’s pay is going down, figures show the average salary for a university vice-chancellor is £270,000, according to reports by the Office for Students. Said reporting also found that six vice-chancellors in Britain are paid almost double this, with salaries of £500,000.
Not only are uni staff underpaid, they are also struggling with insecure, short-term contracts. Almost half of university and college lecturers – 90,000 staff – do not know whether they will still be employed next term. Further to these challenges, staff’s pensions are set to be cut by up to 36%
In a statement on the UOM occupation, YCL Manchester said, “University staff are striking to better their working conditions:
– Better pay conditions.
– An end to casualisation, with an end to zero hours contracts.
– A more manageable workload.
– Equalising the gender and ethnicity pay gaps.”
Pay disparities across the sector show a 15.1% gap between men and women’s incomes, a 9% gap between disbabled and non-disabled staff, and a 17% gap between black and white workers.
“Students and staff” argues Manchester YCL, “must unite in solidarity to fight back against the corrupt education system. Both marketization of education, and casualisation of workers have the same root: Capitalism. We can only win this battle if we combine our forces. The students and staff must unite and fight!”
The UCU’s decision to take action has seen a great deal of support from students. A National Union of Students survey found that 73% of Students support the UCU strike, with only 9% outright opposed.
The action by lecturers will continue beyond these three days of strike, with action short of a strike planned until May 2022. This would see staff keeping to the letter of their contract, not working outside of the hours for which they are actually paid.
Philip English, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch