Teachers are on strike over pension and salary cuts, and working conditions
University of Nottingham lecturers are on strike today at the University Park campus over pension and pay cuts and working conditions. Teachers are taking part in the UCU strike, hailed as the biggest of its kind in modern education history.
At 150 UK universities, more than 70,000 workers are taking part in three days of strike action. We talked to them when the strike started.
The general consensus among teachers is that there is frustration with management who “have no interest in meeting with staff”. One speaker said that if strike demands were not met, there was “the potential for months of strikes and boycotts”.
It seemed clear that the day-to-day workload of teachers has become too much, especially among staff on temporary contracts, “who have to apply for new jobs every six months.” Teachers say “employers have offered a pay ‘rise’ of just 3 per cent”, which has been slammed as “a massive cut above inflation”.
While the issue is complex and there are many layers to why staff are striking, teachers are keen to make it clear that “many of the issues are solvable”. Teachers see solutions to working conditions and “want students to get involved with what’s going on.”
The teachers “don’t want to hurt the students” and feel supported by them. They said those who choose not to support them “have little basis”. It appeared that the reality for some teachers is that if working conditions change little, they would “consider leaving the profession”, with one saying “my dream is to stay in academia, but current conditions might force me to to go out for my well-being”.
The Students’ Union is currently holding a referendum on its position regarding UCU Industrial Action. Voting closes on Friday 25th March at 4pm and you can vote here.
We spoke to a non-striking teacher who said that while they were supporting their colleagues, the issue had “become too divisive”, adding that “staff should strike at the same time as staff of life support”.
A University of Nottingham spokesperson responded to the professors’ claims with the following statement:
“Although this is a national industrial dispute, the University of Nottingham is already taking action locally to address many of the issues, much of which has been agreed with our UCU branch. You can read our joint agreement here which includes measures for review workloads, tackle casualness and reduce gender, ethnic and disability pay gaps.
“While staff pay is negotiated at national level, in Nottingham, all staff at levels four, five and six have received a minimum of six per cent extra pay this year because the University has made local payments of three per cent on top of the three per cent award negotiated in national level For lower grade staff (levels one, two and three), we are implementing a three-year pay increase of 18.5%, up from 8.2% this year, a pay rate that exceeds any other offer available in the higher education. .
“The pension scheme faced a significant gap in its most recent valuation between what it promised to pay its members and what was actually available to pay out of the pension pot. Backed by an additional 1,300 millions of pounds from universities, changes were made to prevent staff and employers from having to pay far more than was affordable to keep the scheme as it was. The pension scheme will undergo its next valuation in 2023 and , after consultation, the University of Nottingham has committed to support the improvement of staff benefits or the reduction of contribution levels to the scheme.
“The University will remain fully open during the strikes, and students should assume that lectures, seminars and classes will take place unless otherwise notified. In the event of an interruption to your learning, we will try to reschedule sessions, provide resources through Moodle, extend deadlines where useful and ensure that assessments reflect the learning that has taken place. For help and advice during strikes please read our students’ frequently asked questions.“
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