University of Brighton Staff Set to Strike Over Decreasing Pay

University and College Union striking across the UK from 25th November to 4th December.

Along with 59 other UK based universities, staff at the University of Brighton are set to participate in an 8 day strike in an effort to pressure employers to address issues surrounding equality in relation to pay and working conditions.

What do you need to know?

  • The strike takes place from 25th November until 4th December inclusive
  • It is designed so that anything booked in with staff on those 8 days will be lost, including seminars, lectures and tutorials. 
  • Anything missed will not be squashed into preceding or following weeks. 
  • Those on strike are not paid for their time off, as such this should not be seen as a holiday.
  • Contact your module leaders to find out if any of your contact time is affected. 

It is entirely reasonable for students to feel anxious and/or angry etc about the disruption to their studies, but where should those feelings be directed? This article will detail the reasons behind the strike and the responses from senior staff within the institution, this will hopefully help you decide where to vent your frustrations and concern should you feel the need. 

Findings from the University and College Employers Association have shown that university staff pay has dropped (in real terms) by 17% since 2009. The University and College Union claim the figure is actually 20%. The issue is not solely about money, the strike is also taking place for reasons relating to equality – specifically BAME, disability and gender pay gaps in higher education. Casualisation is also a factor, temporary and zero hour contracts means that many academic staff are not offered permanent employment which creates an insecure, often poorly paid working environment. Unmanageable workloads are also the subject of this strike.

I spoke to a member of the University and College Union (UCU). They explained to me how they were working 50-60 hours (on average) a week and have been continually struggling to scrape enough time together to support students. They told me that “student to staff ratios have worsened and the learning needs of students continues to be unmet. At the heart of this are the students, the strike is about changing the system in order to enable staff to provide the high level of education that is so rightly deserved”.

It is worth noting that the National Union of Students (NUS) have come out in full support of the strikes, you can watch their highly informative video here:

There has been some back and forth between Vice Chancellor Debra Humphris, the staff and the UCU over the strike. The VC’s comments appear to largely be concerned with the impact of the strike on student experience and the inability of the University of Brighton to afford more for its staff.

The UCU responded swiftly to this addressing not so much what the VC did say, but what she did not say.

The Verse approached The University of Brighton for a comment but they neglected to come back to us in time for the publication of this piece. You can however read the Vice-Chancellors official statement to students.

It is possible that the strike will not go ahead if the ongoing negotiations between the UCU and the University prove successful. If you would like to help resolve the issues, negotiations are more likely to occur and be successful if students contact the VC or Union to express their position. We absolutely have the power to put pressure on either side.

There are some questions this strike has brought to light. Why is such a lot of money being invested into expanding the university (see Moulsecoomb) when there is evidence to support staff having suffered a 17% (in real terms) pay cut? Why are students saddled with huge debt in order to attend university but cannot rely on the institution to ensure they are given adequate time and support from staff? Why should students be the casualty of academic bureaucracy? Is it a particularly radical notion for staff to expect equality?

These are the kinds of questions students are within their rights to consider and (regardless of what side you’re on) are reasonable to direct to the senior staff at the University of Brighton.

Here is a list of useful links and contacts for students who may want to voice their support or opposition to the strike:

Vice Chancellor Debra Humphris:  communications@brighton.ac.uk

University and College Union (UCU) Head Office: 020 7756 2500 (or contact online: https://www.ucu.org.uk/hq?formid=53616)

Facebook Students Support the Strike Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1992524751073417/

https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/10399/UCU-members-back-strikes-over-both-pensions-and-pay-and-conditions

https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/10408/UCU-announces-eight-days-of-strikes-starting-this-month-at-60-universities?list=1676

Harri Clarke

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