The NEU have overcome restrictive anti-union laws with planned strike action to happen over 7 days in February and March. Although 88% of voters said yes to strike action, oppressive laws mean that teachers and support staff had to be balloted separately. Additionally, members in England also had to be balloted separately to those in Wales. And on top of that, each ballot needed greater than 50% turn out to be lawful. The result was that teachers and support staff in Wales met the statutory requirements to strike; in England, teachers did but support staff did not. These legal barriers are there to diminish the effectiveness of workplace organising as industrial action is a direct threat to state interests and worker exploitation.
SFEU supports the upcoming Further and Higher Education strikes, due to begin on 1 February and to be spread over 18 days between then and the end of March. This is a welcome escalation and our best bet for a positive outcome (short of an all-out strike). This wave of strike action will seriously disrupt teaching right at the beginning of the new semester and beyond, but the key issues of growing casualization, wage theft, pension degradation and untenable workloads remain unresolved, universities need to be held to account. If our voices are still not heard, we need to get behind and implement the marking and assessment boycott, timed for maximum effect in May and June.
We also encourage individuals to organise locally to tackle these problems, communicate with your colleagues who face the same conditions - strength in numbers gets results.
Grading dispute at a University in Wales
According to a UCU report, the university sector has been systematically trying to downgrade roles amongst its academic staff in an attempt to save money i.e. expecting a Grade 6 to do work previously done by a Grade 7.
A comrade at a university in Wales is taking direct action in the form of a work to rule by following the published HERA role and person profiles which set out quite clearly the responsibilities of each grade. At present, rather than re-grading the role to a 7, one by one the Grade 7 duties are now officially being removed. The hope is these successes will encourage collective action by the other Grade 6’s.
The Solidarity Federation Education Union (SFEU), will be standing with colleagues this week as we see staff at Universities and Colleges across the country striking in protest at worsening pay and pension provision. This action follows last month’s overwhelming ‘yes’ vote in a series of national ballots. After more than 8 in 10 of those voting, voted for action, the 24, 25 and 30 November may see as many as 70,000 UCU members on strike.
On some university campuses, strikes by UNISON and Unite have also been called. At the University of Leeds, for example, UNISON will strike for seven continuous days between 24 and 30 November. This is all good news in developing resistance against management's continued attempts to destroy our pensions and to continue to hold back on, or not to fulfil speedily enough, promises regarding equality and short-term contracts.
The Solidarity Federation Education Union (SFEU), welcomes the news that workers in Further and Higher education have voted to take strike action on pay and pensions. On both counts, the voting threshold was attained (some 84.9% in favour with a 60.2% turnout for strikes over pension cuts and 81.1% in favour with a 57.7% turnout on real term pay cuts).
The Solidarity Federation Education Union (SFEU) supports the strike action by Leeds University workers in UNISON, as well as the ongoing ballot for industrial action by academic staff in the UCU. We have members in both unions – and you can support them by not crossing the picket line. This means staying out of university buildings while the strike is going on.*
Support staff vs the University: the UNISON dispute
UNISON is currently in dispute with both the University of Leeds and UCEA (the body of employers) nationally. The union at Leeds represents support staff, ranging from porters and estates through to all aspects of administration and student support.
SFEU (Solidarity Federation Education Union) continues to stand in solidarity with those workers who are currently involved in the UCU industrial actions taking place at FE and HE institutions across the country.
The UCU, at a Special Higher Education Sector Conference, has now set out the terms of the continuing dispute centred on pensions and the Four Fights (casualization, workload, equal pay and conditions for women and BAME workers and the broader issue of pay).
Our small but growing Union, the Solidarity Federation Education Union, supports this ballot and argues that workers should vote in favour of strike action to defend our pensions and conditions. With inflation rising, furlough ending, and historic injustices over pay, pensions and conditions continuing to prevail, the only option left to us is downing tools and walking out. To have any chance of success, this action must be both local and national and must build on the gains, small though they were, of the last period of strike action.
The University and College Union (UCU) is continuing its action in defence of fair pensions and fair working conditions. Staff will be on strike in February and March in relation to both the pension dispute and the “Four Fights” (pay, workload, casualization, structural inequality).
The Solidarity Federation Education Union (SFEU) supports this action because…
● University lecturers’ pay has fallen by 20%.
● One third of academic staff are on precarious, short-term contracts. ● Women university workers are still paid less than men, and more likely to be on these precarious contracts.
● BAME and staff who are People of Colour are also often paid less than their white counterparts.
● Pensions are under threat.
Contact - LeedsSolFed@gmail.com
The Solidarity Federation Education Union (SFEU) is a union established out of the desire for connected struggle and defence of all education workers.