The Solidarity Federation Education Union (SFEU) would like to express its heartfelt thanks for the support shown by students at recent graduation ceremonies. The Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) has been a difficult time for both staff and students, but it is clear that we stand in solidarity together against those institutions that would rather penalise its workers than negotiate with them. At some institutions, the MAB has had such a huge impact that graduation and classification of degrees has been severely affected. These huge sacrifices in terms of both pay and of grades demonstrate that that together we can make a difference and cracks are starting to show in the employers' association (UCEA), with one university, Queen's University Belfast, being suspended from UCEA for breaking ranks and brokering a local agreement.
The Solidarity Federation Education Union (SFEU) would like to express its solidarity with university academic staff currently engaged in the Marking and Assessment Boycott as part of their demand for restored salaries, the elimination of the gender and race pay gap, workloads and casualization.
As on previous occasions, it is a big step to take but ultimately one of our greatest weapons for causing major disruption to the academic process. Students are understandably angered by university responses to date largely suggesting that they will just predict a grade based on their prior performance – it appears it is easier to ignore all their hard work this semester than to get round the table and negotiate an end to this dispute.
Starting on Wednesday 1st December, 58 branches of UCU (University and College Union) went on strike for 3 days over issues surrounding pensions, pay, working conditions and pay gaps. A group of SolFed members who are students at Sussex University attended the picket line and took part in direct action in support of all staff who were on strike.
The strike began with a big demonstration and march around the campus, ending at Sussex House - the university’s management building. We attended and waved our red and black flag, asserting an anarcho-syndicalist presence among the students.
The “marketisation” of universities in the past decade has led to the increased use of insecure and precarious contracts. A report by the UCU found that 54% of all academic staff and 49% of all academic teaching staff are on insecure contracts.
If this was not bad enough, as a result of the Corvid-19, many universities are making temporary staff redundant rather than putting staff on furlough. With universities now facing an £8 billion deficit as a result of Covid-19, there can be little doubt that this is part of an overall strategy that will lead to cuts to jobs and pay in the future.