Students at two local universities face disrupted studies this week as lecturers at Goldsmiths in New Cross and Queen Mary in Whitechapel start an eight day strike on Monday over pensions and working conditions. Both universities are colleges of the University of London.
The wardens of both institutions spoke out against the University and College Union’s decision to carry out strike action. Staff are striking over a long standing dispute over pensions and the nature of their contracts, including pay, equality, casualisation and workloads. Some members are set to lose out on £10,000 a year after retirement, claims the UCU.
Support for the action at both institutions was strong with more than 80 per cent of members who voted backing strike action in a ballot. Students are likely to face cancelled lecturers, seminars, workshops and events.
Barry Jones, UCU regional official, told Eastlondonlines: “We are aware of the difficult financial climate facing universities but they need to decide where their priorities lie. Investment in staff is an investment in students and we urge vice chancellors to put pressure on the employer bodies to bring forward sensible proposals to resolve the pensions dispute.”
Frances Corner, Warden of Goldsmiths said in a statement: “The university is unable to comply with what the union is pushing for… Goldsmiths is currently in deficit, with this financial loss meaning we cannot afford to meet the union’s demands over pensions and pay… which is set at a national level and not set by Goldsmiths.”
Colin Bailey, principal of Queen Mary, echoed this : “As this is a national dispute about pay and pensions, we are also working hard with other partners across the Higher Education sector to resolve it. Any solution must be acceptable to the whole community within the sector, and more importantly needs to be affordable and sustainable.”
He said that effort will be made by the university to minimise the impact on students.
Across the country a total of 43 universities are expected to take part in the action, which has the potential to impact up to a million students. The action will mean cancelled classes.
The National Union of Students are supporting the strike. Zamzam Ibrahim, NUS president, Claire Sosienski- Smith, vice president and Jo Grady UCU general secretary made a joint video statement outlining their reasoning
“They’re going on strike over pay, pensions, job security, equality pay gaps, and unsustainable workloads… you should be angry, our staff do billions of pounds of unpaid labour.”
They also explained the second reason behind the strike; highlighting the negative effects of the temporary contracts, like the disproportionate effects on women and BAME people and a lack of job security.
This strike action follows the strikes that happened in early 2018, which included a marking boycott from university tutors, student-led occupations and cancelled classes.