Students gathered outside Queen Mary University of London to support their striking lecturers as ‘The University and College Union’ continues their fight for better pay and working conditions.
The university is one of 60 universities and colleges across the UK involved in the strike action. On 18 November the UCU announced the strike would take place from Monday 25 November to Wednesday 4 December.
“Our members have reached a breaking point”, said the UCU as the strike entered its sixth day. Picket lines have been forming all over London, with lecturers and students shouting for higher pay and elimination of zero-hour contracts.
43, 000 members walking out
Classes have been canceled and assignments delayed as around 43, 000 UCU members have been walking out of work. Members striking also include support services staff, librarians, technicians, and members of administration.
Strike organisers have stated: “The action is disrupting the entire higher education sector”. A lecturer from the picket line also wanted to specify that: “This isn’t just about pensions, it’s about better working conditions overall”.
Some have expressed anger over the implications of the strike. Queen Mary University students seemed eager to back their lecturers, but also voiced concern: ”Of course, it’s inconvenient, this is my final year of university! Hopefully, it will end up benefitting us all in the end”, says student Leon John.
A lecturer from Queen Mary’s ‘School of Linguistics’ was quick to press how important it was for them to talk to their students and inform them about what was going on. ”We’re very aware of how stressful this must be for them too”, she said.
“BAME workers paid 22% less than white staff”
Pension cuts, gender pay gaps, and an increasing workload are some of the main reasons for the strike.
Outside Queen Mary University flyers were handed out with facts and statics such as: “At QMUL, BAME workers are paid 22% less than white staff”, and: ”44% of QMUL staff witnessed bullying/harassment in 2018″.
It’s estimated that UK universities made one billion British pounds surplus last year. The UCU said: “universities can afford to treat their staff decently and need to enable them to give students the time and support they deserve”.
Support from Labour
With the general election fast approaching, Labour’s education secretary Angela Rayner was quick to express her support for the union on social media.
”Sending my support to @ucu members who are starting strike action today. Fair pay, secure contracts, reasonable workloads, and decent, affordable pensions should come as standard for all those working in education, including in our universities.”, Rayner tweeted on 25 November.
Kate Green, the Labour candidate for the Greater Manchester constituency of Stretford and Urmston, has also supported UCU, urging institutions to: “listen to the concerns of staff”.