Passed:November 2022 (28th)
What do you want? / Why do you want it?
Since 2018, the UCU (University and College Union) have participated in industrial action relating to the ‘Four Fights’ campaign to tackle casualisation, workload, fair pay and inequalities in the workplace as well as the USS pension scheme. University staff are over-worked, under-paid and under-valued:
· Staff are facing a 25% real term pay cut since 2009
· New reports are indicating that over 50% of university staff are showing signs of depression
· Four in ten postgraduate students are ‘at a high risk of suicide’
· Pensions for staff have been cut by £240,000 since 2011, with another 35% cut to guaranteed pensions
Leeds UCU escalated action locally to a marking and assessment boycott. This escalation put more pressure on the university to listen to their fair and reasonable demands and, following negotiations, a deal was agreed regarding local ‘four fights’ and USS pension disputes. National industrial action is still ongoing in relation to the following demands:
· The swift withdrawal of the cuts imposed on USS pensions and for a new evidence-based valuation to be carried out
· On pay and conditions, the union is calling for a pay rise for all staff of at least £2,500
· Action to close equality pay gaps
· Eliminating casualisation and precarious work
· For excessive workloads to be addressed
The UCU are not the only union recognised by the University of Leeds. Unite and Unison are also recognised by the university and Unison workers have recently participated in strike action over pay. If university workers intend to participate in industrial action, then they should receive the full support and solidarity from Leeds University Union.
Staff working conditions are students’ learning conditions. The increase in workload and stagnant pay for staff is implicitly linked with students’ high tuition fees, extortionate rent prices and inadequate mental and physical health services. Long-term trends of casualisation and marketisation are exposing a mental health crisis amongst staff in higher education. A failure to support staff results in poorer learning conditions for students. Furthermore, the concerns for students’ wellbeing will only continue to intensify without direct industrial action by staff and university conditions improving.
Action to strike is always the last resort. UoL staff have been forced to act following the deterioration of their working conditions. Staff should receive fair pay, good working conditions and a secure and dignified retirement. The members of staff who strike understand the significant impact it has on their students, as well as losing out on pay, but are taking action to secure the future of higher education as a sector for both students and staff. Measures such as action short of a strike (ASOS), strike action and marking/assessment boycotts are used because they are effective at putting pressure on the university to get around the negotiating table.
LUU should recognise in its words and actions the shared goal of its students and the university unions of an education system that is more than a mere commodity. A democratised and decommodified education system is in the best interests of both students and staff. When UoL staff vote for industrial action, LUU will make a statement offering their support and solidarity to striking staff and call for the university to respond urgently, productively, and proactively to staff concerns. This policy would also establish a precedent for honouring student voices on their concerns for the marketisation of their education.