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29th November 2021

The UCU strikes: Why are they taking place and what are the SU doing?

Everything you need to know ahead of the UCU strikes this week
The UCU strikes: Why are they taking place and what are the SU doing?
Photo: LornaMCampbell @ Wikimedia Commons

The University and College Union (UCU) are striking from the 1st to 3rd of December. This means the lectures and seminars taught by those on strike will be cancelled. 58 universities across the UK are going on strike next week.

The University of Manchester are striking over ‘four fights’:

  • Pay: Over the last 10 years the University staff have seen a 20% pay-cut. At the same time the number of students coming into universities are rising.
  • Workload: The amount of work that the staff are given by the University is often more than what they have been promised in their contract.
  • Equality: Currently at the University of Manchester, according to the Student Union there are large pay gaps. There is 17% ethnicity inequality, 15.1% gender and 9% disability inequality.
  • Casualisation: Many members of staff have often been put on part-time or fixed term contracts – when it comes to their job security, they do not feel safe.

This may not be the only strike of the academic year, and the UMUCU are currently seeking to reballot on pensions, as Manchester missed the threshold by one vote.

The Mancunion reached out to a number of lecturers about why they are striking, but most did not want to comment publicly due to fears for their job security.

Doctor Anh Le, a Politics teaching assistant said: “my reasons for going on strike are a bit multi-faceted, but boil down to three main issues: job insecurity – how Universities … have effectively turned academia into an Uber-style gig economy, gender/ethnic pay gap (which is pretty bad at UoM), and to demonstrate solidarity with other colleagues who are in even worse situations than myself – that’s what being in a union is about!”

At Manchester some staff are also undertaking ‘Action Short of a Strike’ from the 1st of December to the 3rd of May 2022. This means staff will be doing exactly what their contract says. The SU explained this at the ‘Strikes Open Meeting’ through the example of dissertations: if staff’s contracts say they have 17 minutes to mark a dissertation, when undertaking action short of a strike they will not spend any longer it – even if it would require longer to accurately mark it.

The University have stated that they will try to reduce the impact of strikes on students, and assured students that they will be informed if lectures are cancelled. However, striking staff are under no obligation to tell the university or students they are on strike in advance.

The Students’ Union (SU) are also looking to support students through the strikes. The SU General Secretary, Melody Stephen, said in the open meeting “what the staff are fighting for are super important.” But the whole SU executive team are working to focus on student wellbeing and not looking at the strikes in a binary way.

The SU have said they are trying to organise activities for the students and investing money to ensure students’ best interests are handled. They are hoping to organise an open meeting on 29th November with the UCU to help students understand the situation better and combat false narratives.

Shikhar Talwar

Shikhar Talwar

Hello! I am the MMG News Producer. My job is to ensure collaboration between all 3 wings of MMG, namely Mancunion, Fuse TV and Fuse FM. I also write for the news section at the Mancunion, with topics ranging from elections to protests.

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