Bea Gardner, Southampton Socialist Students
Socialist Students stands in solidarity with the UCU who have this week announced 14 days of strike action for universities currently in dispute over pensions, pay and conditions.
Strike action will start on Thursday 20 February and escalate each week, finishing with a week-long walkout from Monday 9 to Friday 13 March. In total 74 universities will be taking part, 14 more than in the 8 days of action before Christmas. As a result, over 1.2 million students will be affected. UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, has warned that the union is prepared to re-ballot members over Easter to keep the mandate for industrial action live when students sit their exams later in the summer.
We recognise that industrial action is a crucial last resort by higher education staff who have faced a decade of attacks to their conditions in the name of marketization. Since 2010 academic pay has reduced 20% in real terms and more than 50% of teaching is done by hourly paid workers. Many studies have recently highlighted the endemic rates of poor mental health, stress, bullying and harassment in higher education. Conditions which are generated by unsustainable workloads and competitive funding contracts. Socialist Students stands against this marketization which has seen the quality of our education reduced in order to squeeze more profit from our fees.
We welcome the move of UCU members to fight back against these conditions and our local student groups will be writing local branches to discuss how we can most effectively build student solidarity with the strikes. Socialist Students will be out on campus building the maximum support amongst students for the action and will publish resources and material to support the disputes in the coming days.
This will be the first national strike action since the election of the Tory government in December. This action could also be the start of a wider fightback alongside workers in other trade unions in defiance of further Tory attacks. A victory in this dispute would be an essential stepping stone to building a united fight back in education against the Tories, austerity, and marketisation.
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Socialist Students is joining the calls for protests against the Tories on Budget Day, March 11. We will also be joining the protest in London at Parliament Square at 1pm. Join Socialist Students today to help build the fight back on campus against the Tories.