Why university staff voted for the strike and what it means for the labor movement – LaborList


In all universities, the results are in: we will strike for better pay, adequate pensions and decent working conditions. In just three weeks, universities up and down the country got together to get the vote, with over 70% of those who voted in favor to hit action. This sends a powerful message to management. We will no longer accept the poor status quo.

This message is so powerful because, as King’s union representative, I can tell you it is hard organize academics. Academics are independent, they don’t work together in large teams, and they aren’t in the office at the same time. Organizing means diligently building personal relationships, constantly talking to our members and resolutely fighting for their rights. At King’s College, we secured the one of maximum affluence in the country doing just that.

The strength of the turnout is a testament to the strength of our discontent. Academia can bring to mind a vision of lecturers discussing ideas in an enjoyable way, free from the hustle and bustle of commercial life. But this idyllic picture couldn’t be further from the truth. The life of a modern academic is not just stressful: it is almost becoming miserable. We are working harder and longer for lower pay and fewer job guarantees or decent pensions in the future.

The recent story of a teacher who had to live in a tent for make ends meet it was sad precisely because it wasn’t that surprising to those of us who work in higher education. It is the logical endpoint of a system where staff are increasingly pushed to provide more and more and are expected to accept it silently. Well, we won’t take it quietly. We will make our voices heard. We will strike – for five reasons I will detail why some matter to have misrepresented our position.

First, the pensions. The current proposal provides for a reduction of pension benefits up to 25%. The proposed cut is so large because our pension scheme is allegedly in deficit. This calculation, however, is based on an incorrect assessment. The pension scheme was assessed in March 2020, when stock markets plummeted at the start of the pandemic (see Figure 1). The stock markets subsequently rose and the value of the assets in the scheme increased about 25% – More than enough to cover the alleged deficit.

Second, pay. Our pay has been cut about 8% in real terms since 2010. The salary of the Deputy Chancellor has increased more than 10% during the same period. Last year, 15 of the country’s highest-paid vice-rectors had their pre-pandemic pay premiums restored despite large-scale losses and nearly 2,000 layoffs at their institutions. Some numbers speak for themselves.

Thirdly, ours workloads have increased at unsafe levels. We are working, on average, two extra unpaid days per week and 2/3 of us find our workload unmanageable at least half the time. This remained half of British academics with stress-related mental health problems. We deserve jobs that don’t leave us on the verge of mental breakdown. Fourth, equal pay. Women are paid 15% less than men. This is unacceptable and must change.

Long last, over 130,000 academics they have short-term contracts. They don’t know if they will get a job at the end of the contract. They also have an incredibly low pay – around half bring home less than £ 1,500 a month and half of their work is unpaid. About 60% of these precarious workers struggle to make ends meet and 70% have mental health problems. We need secure jobs so we can stop moving from town to town unhappily chasing unstable short-term contracts that don’t pay the bills.

Our strike vote is part of a larger and more moving movement of workers across the country and abroad find them voice and struggling for better to pay Other conditions. As a labor movement, we are making it clear that we will not accept starvation wages and unsafe working conditions. And together we will win.

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