In the last week of March, the University of Nottingham was one of 29 universities whose staff were taking part in another week of strikes. Esme McKenzie spoke to the University of Nottingham branch of the University and College Union about their decision to take further strike action.
As many students grow increasingly anxious about lost teaching time, the union is urging students to support their decision. The union stated that “Staff working conditions are student learning conditions,” and their success will lead to “good learning conditions for students in future”. Those striking say they see little option due to the state of current staff working conditions and the refusal of the university management to negotiate, which they view as a “heavy-handed attack on our profession”.
Leaves us with no alternative but to escalate our actions
To date, across five weeks of the 21/22 academic year, there have been a total of 20 days of strikes, which has left some of the student body feeling frustrated and worried about looming exams and finals. While many students are in support of the strikes, with some students currently occupying the Trent building in solidarity with staff members, others are losing patience with the loss of learning. One student said, “I sympathise but it is frustrating as a student, that the strikes have such an impact on my education.”
Other students have said that the effects of the strikes have left them feeling “unmotivated” making their assessments much more “challenging.” As the current student cohort has already lost large amounts of in-person teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the possibility of further strike action has left many feeling increasingly anxious as the summer exam season approaches. The University of Nottingham UCU branch insists that while they “fully understand the frustration about the repeated cancellations of classes,” the university’s management “leaves us with no alternative but to escalate our actions.”
The continued industrial action is over issues of staff working conditions. One of the main issues is the dramatic decline in staff pay by 25.5% since 2009, a trend that looks set to continue, despite the rising workload. In addition, staff pensions have been threatened by suggested cuts of up to 35%. There is also an increasing casualisation of staff with only a third of lecturers now on fixed-term contracts. Additionally, there is another issue of large pay gaps: women face a pay gap of 20.3%, 11.7% for BAME staff, and 9% for disabled staff nationally. Whilst the Vice-Chancellor and others in the university management continue to reject proposals for improvements in pay and working conditions, the UCU says it feels it has no option but to continue with further industrial action in the future.
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