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From The Socialist newspaper, 10 March 2021

Leicester university workers ballot for action against redundancies

Leicester, UCU strike 25.11.19, photo Tessa Warrington

Leicester, UCU strike 25.11.19, photo Tessa Warrington   (Click to enlarge)

Sarah Seaton, chair of the University of Leicester University and College Union branch, has spoken to the Socialist about fighting proposed redundancies and the impact the pandemic has had.

What has been the experience of university staff over the course of the pandemic?

It has been difficult for everyone. The workload was already unmanageable pre-Covid, but has now become absolutely unsustainable - for teaching, research and support staff alike. We were fortunate in that many of us could work from home, unlike some other professions. But at the start of the first lockdown, all temporary workers' contracts were terminated and the burden of that work shifted onto permanent staff. No choice, no pay increase - nothing. Many of us also have caring responsibilities, being expected to home-school our children while working full-time hours. It's impossible.

Can you explain how your dispute with the University of Leicester bosses came about?

On the first teaching day of 2021, university staff came back to an email from the vice-chancellor notifying us of a consultation over reconfiguration plans which put 145 jobs at risk of redundancy. The mood was instantly one of shock and disbelief. To be told we were facing unemployment amid the uncertainty of the pandemic was just incredible. Despite the exhaustion of our members, the shock very quickly crystallised into anger. We know that if we don't fight job cuts now, similar attacks will be coming down the line for other workers.

What has been the response of the UCU branch?

Our branch has historically had a strong position on opposing compulsory redundancies after a previous dispute we won in 2018. We called an emergency general meeting at short notice, where over 200 attended. There was incredible strength of feeling. We agreed for the union go back to the vice-chancellor's office giving them until 1 February to withdraw the proposal or enter into dispute. We passed a motion of no confidence in the university executive board. As it failed to withdraw the proposal we have now declared a dispute and are preparing to ballot.

What has been students' reaction?

The Students' Union at University of Leicester have been hugely supportive, with the 'Students Against Redundancies' group also moving a motion of no confidence in the university executive, passing by 116 votes out of 120.

I feel incredibly sorry for current students. There is a danger that the question of tuition fees becomes limited to demanding a refund for the lockdown period, when really education should be free and accessible to all, with fees scrapped completely.

What do you think is a solution for both students and workers?

Obviously, the university's executive needs to immediately halt its redundancy plans. We must demand that the government step in and fund the shortfall in university budgets rather than the insidious creeping influence of big business.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 10 March 2021:


NHS pay

NHS pay - 15% now

NHS workers say: We are ready to fight Tory pay insult

Police disgracefully stop NHS pay protest


News

Super-deduction will help big business pay less tax

The 'old normal' meant poverty for young people


What we think

Tories keep bailing out bosses, while piling pain on workers and public services


Schools

Workers respond to 'back to school'


Workplace news

British Gas strikers reject deal and carry on fighting

Goodlord striker speaks out: 'workers have to fight for our skills to be appreciated'

Stop union busting on the buses: Reinstate Declan Clune and Moe Muhsin Manir

Sparks deskilling protests

Leicester university workers ballot for action against redundancies

Sainsbury's pay offer shows future will only be 'great pay' if we fight

PCS leadership failures lead to concession bargaining on pay

Manchester bus drivers' indefinite strikers fight on

London bus drivers continue walkout


Rosa Luxemburg

150th anniversary of Rosa Luxemburg's birth


Wealth Tax

Would a wealth tax end poverty and inequality?


Campaigns news

Socialist women speak at inspirational International Women's Day online rally

Why I joined the Socialist Party - to fight for the future of the working class

Why I'm standing for TUSC

Build subscriptions to the Socialist

Fighting fund target achieved - keep up the momentum


International news

Historic union battle at Alabama warehouse

10 years ago - the Fukushima nuclear disaster: "We came close to losing northern Japan"


Letters

The Socialist Inbox


 

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