Why is Bristol UCU on strike? #fairpayinhe

Why are Bristol UCU members on strike today?

A difficult decision I know for many.

We are on strike today because we’ve had our pay cut whilst being asked to do more and more for less and less, because we’ve had a real terms cut in pay of around 14.5% since 2009.

We are on strike today because of the widespread use of casual contracts at this and all our universities.

When it comes to university teachers, researchers and all manner of university staff who keep this place going on a day-to-day basis: university managements don’t want to sit down with their staff and their unions, and seriously, collectively negotiate a reduction in staff employed on precarious, insecure casual contracts.

We want proper, decent employment for ourselves and our colleagues as a rule.

54% of all academic on insecure contracts according to the latest data; 56% of teaching-focused staff are on atypical casual contracts here at Bristol: we want universities to address this.

These numbers are too damn high.

Our casework here at Bristol UCU, by the way, can testify to a number of brilliant researchers and teachers living from contract to contract, all because universities today know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

We are on strike today because of the scandal that female staff are being paid less for the same work as their male colleagues. UCU again wants to negotiate, wants to close the pay gap by 2020, wants to address the structural reality that there is, on average, a difference in pay between male and female staff of just over £6,000 a year.

We are on strike because of our students. Our local student union officers say it best: “staff are being asked to do more for less and this is having a negative effect on all our education”.

Nationally the National Union of Students is clear: investing in staff, tackling the inequality and insecurity that blight our universities, is the way forward. Staff, as well as students, are the most important assets universities have. Paying educators fairly improves all of our education: lecturers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions!

We are on strike today because we are reasonable. Universities have the lucre, the dosh, the money for fair pay in HE.

Vice Chancellor pay is booming. Universities’ case reserves are over £20 billion; the University of Bristol has a surplus of over £30 million.

Why is VC’s pay shooting up – an average annual increase of 6.1% of hundreds of thousands – and HE staff get offered 1.1% as way of a final offer. It’s not right; it’s not fair and devalues the much feted student experience when staff that provide that experience get a cut in pay.

Finally we are on strike because united we bargain, divided we beg.

Higher Education is living through interesting times: TEF, the attack on student unions, the abstract, flawed, frankly anti-intellectual ways we measure the quality of teaching and research, the Prevent Duty, the restructuring of our professional service staff.

Together, as a union and as a branch, if we’re serious about making a difference, about making our University better, we need to stand together and unite – staff and students.

Our pay, all the issues just mentioned and more: if we are going to achieve anything collectively, we must work together to make it happen.

It isn’t going to happen unfortunately via our current HE leadership left to their own devices, whether senior or of a more middling variety. It isn’t going to happen unfortunately through simply tweeting the latest Times Higher article, or bitterly complaining in 2s or 3s around the kettle following the latest depressing School meeting – although it helps!

It’s going to be through actions like this.

So, I conclude by saying: let’s come together, let’s work together and embrace the challenges, problems and possibilities that entails.

Let’s win fair pay for staff in HE.

Thank you!


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