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Striking for improved pay in Higher Education
Higher Education staff in the unions UCU, Unison and Unite took strike action on 6th February in their ongoing campaign against yet another real terms pay cut. They are offered 1% while vice chancellors are getting much more.
UCU and Unison members at Salford university mounted big picket lines and a demonstration this morning with banners saying "Salford university takes 1 day's pay for 2 hours' strike - UCU will not be intimidated".
Salford is one of the 31 universities to say they will dock a day's pay for each of the three two-hour strikes by UCU lecturers' union members - lumping all three deductions together in March so those affected will then lose half a week's pay in one go.
The depth of workers' anger at the insulting 1% pay freeze, coupled with the provocative pay deductions for lecturers, was expressed by an even stronger strike and an even more deserted campus than on previous strike days.
I asked Bernie Maguire, UCU branch president, to sum up how he thought the day had gone:
"Brilliant, best turnout we've had for a long time, excellent response, very few people crossing the picket lines.
"It shows that when management try to intimidate people, they get the opposite reaction. At Salford university they're talking about 'mutual respect' in industrial relations, and then they show their 'mutual respect' by docking a day's pay for two hours' strike action.
"So their attempt to intimidate is actually hardening the dispute, hardening the members. The decision of our branch committee is that we want an escalation of the action, we want a marking boycott, we want to move it up to that to make them get round the table and talk to us."
Lots of university staff struggled through heavy traffic to mount sizeable pickets at central London universities for the UCU, Unite and Unison HE strike today.
The Institute of Education, University College London, SOAS and Birkbeck were all eerily quiet inside, hit by a combination of the HE and tube strikes. Coordinated action certainly has had an effect here!
IWGB union members at the University of London were also on strike as part of the 3Cosas campaign.
Paula Mitchell, London Socialist Party
London South Bank university
Union members on the picket line were angry that the vice chancellor on over £200k is getting an 8% increase while staff get 1% - that takes the biscuit for many of them.
UCU branch chair Russell reminded us that a few years back when the occupations were also taking place, UCU at LSBU fought a year-long battle after the VC took them out of collective bargaining, and they won! Had they not, this pay campaign and much more might not exist.
The three LSBU unions were working together for this strike. The picket line was 50 metres from the RMT Elephant and Castle picket line and RMT members showed support.
London Met university
The Unison branch in London Met organised a rally at 11am - supported by HE unions across London - after its own morning picket lines.
Turnout was affected by the rain and the tube strike but a lively rally went ahead and was addressed by London RMT secretary John Reid and NSSN chair Rob Williams as well as London Met trade unionists and students.
Different entrances to the university were covered by pickets and the mood was upbeat. While I was on the picket line a council worker walked by and expressed his support. He said the council was cutting his pay by 11%! He added that all workers should come out together, "that would hit them and show our strength" he added.
This remark alone shows what needs to be done. If the TUC would lead and show they are prepared to against cuts to jobs, services, wages, then millions of workers would back them.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 6 February 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.