Universities close again as staff at QMU, Goldsmiths and London Met strike against pay inequality

Protestors at London Metropolitan University Pic: Sara Pigozzo

Protestors at London Metropolitan University Pic: Sara Pigozzo

University staff have taken part in a second day of national strikes, after employers refused requests for higher pay following industrial action in October.

Picket lines have dominated campuses across EastLondonLine boroughs after negotiations between the unions and the University College Employers broke down.

Unite, Unison and UCU unions are aggrieved at the extortionate wage increases for Vice Chancellors and UCEA’s reluctance to offer an improved pay deal for University workers.

Over 60 students occupied Deptford Town Hall at Goldsmiths, preventing senior management from attending work during the strike, while pickets were organized at London Metropolitan University and Queen Mary’s University in Tower Hamlets.

Goldsmiths College lecturer and UCU member Marianne Franklin said: “This is about proportionate pay increases for lower paid staff, not for my salary, and for the conditions under which we are supposed to work. The disdain for higher education at the moment is astounding.”

Posters at Goldsmiths College Pic: Rachael Pells

Posters at Goldsmiths College Pic: Rachael Pells

Goldsmiths UCU president Tom Henri, pointed to the wage disparity between university management and other staff.

“We found out that Pat Loughrey, the [Goldsmiths] Warden, has received a pay award of 9%, which brings his salary to £225,000,” said Henri. “This is tasteless and shocking when we’re in dispute over 1%.”

London Met student John Fitzgerald, 21, joined the picket lines. He said: “I’m out here because my tutors and staff are all out here, and they feel that they’re not getting a fair wage for what they do, which is a lot. They do a lot for us, probably more than anyone else in the university. I will be out here again [if they strike again].”

The London Metropolitan Unison branch chair, Maggie Loughran, argued that low pay had made it increasingly difficult for university support staff to make ends meet. Loughran said: “We still have people going to food banks; we still have people coming to us asking for hardship funds to help them out. We’ve got people going out on strike today, who can’t afford to go out on strike.”

Students at Queen Mary's University Pic: Katharine Knowles

Students at Queen Mary’s University Pic: Katharine Knowles

Clara Jones, who works as an associate lecturer in the English department said: “It’s important for students to show solidarity with members of staff.”

She added: “Students entering into the university experience paying higher fees experience the same market forces that mean that members of staff at this university have had a 15% real term cut in their pay in London over the last four years. So its all connected up and its important that students show solidarity with their lecturers, and also important for people.”

Following the picket lines, strikers marched at a rally this afternoon outside UCEA headquarters in Tavistock Square.

The UCEA claims the 1% increase in pay that the unions consider unfair fails to take into account “generous incremental increases and contribution pay,” which has cost universities 3%.

A UCEA spokesperson said: “As the trade unions attempt to string this dispute out, UCEA’s 150 participating HE employers confirmed that the pay increase offered is sustainable, fair and final. The trade unions are continuing to press for unaffordable increases that would push pay costs even higher than the 3% already committed, and put jobs at risk.”

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