Academic strike: as it happened

first_imgAcademics and staff from across the university walked out in a row over pay yesterday. The move, part of a nationwide day of industrial action by higher education staff, came in response to the decision to raise pay by only one percent this year: unions believe that this constitutes a pay cut given the present rate of inflation is at three precent.YouTube linkStudent group ‘Support Our Staff’, marching from Carfax Tower in solidarity with the strikers, peacefully occupied Exam Schools for an hour and a half yesterday. In a speech to protestors, first-year Wadhamite Barnaby Raine said, “It is about a broader struggle. We are here today because we believe that education is a public good, because we believe we are learners, not consumers, and because we want an education that is free for students, pays staff properly in recognition of their importance to society, we want a different kind of society that doesn’t believe private is good and public is bad.” Raine continued, “We are here today to send a message to the government that we will defend our schools, our universities, our hospitals, striking workers, and that we will not have money spent on war and nuclear weapons when it should be spent on public services.”A UNISON striker told Cherwell that he was there to “stress the importance of the support staff and lecturers at the university in providing a full student experience to all students.”He added, “The university has lost sight of the fact that it’s not the buildings, or the artefacts, or the Ashmolean that makes the university, it’s the staff and the students that create the university, and they have lost sight of that fact, and are not allowing a pay level which will recruit the best quality staff to maintain their world-leading status.”It remains unclear exactly what proportion of staff took part in the industrial action, but the University and College Union (UCU) expected 50% participation.At the sit-in, campaigner Nathan Akehurst told Cherwell “I am impressed by the turnout today. There was a real show of strength for our staff and for the concept of well-paid, publicly-funded education. We’ve had so far motions passed at OUSU and several common rooms, we know that when we march here, we represent a huge sector of the university, and we have sent a strong message to Andrew Hamilton, the UCEL and the government that we will not take cuts to higher education lying down.”Akehurst continued, “Staff are getting a pay rise in money terms, but in real terms it amounts to a pay cut. According to independent government sources, university staff are experiencing the longest sustained pay cut since the Second World War, essentially a 13% pay cut since 2008.”On Wednesday evening, college JCR and MCR representatives at OUSU Council voted 45-5 with 15 abstentions to back staff industrial action. OUSU was subsequently mandated to encourage students to reschedule Thursday tutorials and not to attend lectures on the strike day.Speaking on Thursday, OUSU President Tom Rutland told Cherwell, “I supported last night’s motion out of concern for the living standards of University staff, but also out of concern for our students whose lecturers and tutors have faced a real terms pay cut of 13% since 2008.”He added, “There is a threat to the student academic experience when steadily declining pay may impact on staff motivation and productivity. It is right that University staff are properly supported and remunerated for their invaluable contribution to our education and wider society.”Rutland, who attended the protest, is not believed to have taken part in the sit-in.The Universities and Colleges Employers Association – the body which represents Higher Education employers – said in a statement that unions have overlooked incremental pay rises, which actually put total wage rises nearer to 3%, and say that only 4.7% of the total Higher Education workforce voted for strike action.A spokesperson for the University of Oxford told Cherwell, “The University respects the right of individuals to take part in lawful industrial action. Contingency plans are in place aimed at minimising any disruption or inconvenience such action may cause to students, staff, and visitors to the University.”last_img