Oxford Academics took part in a strike spanning Universities across the UK on Thursday following failing negotiations over pay and pension schemes.
Following a protest exclusive to England on Tuesday, staff in universities and colleges throughout the UK came together yesterday in an act of solidarity.
The protest was organised by the University and College Union who are campaigning for \”the improvement of the pay and conditions of further and higher education staff through the UK, and for the provision of high quality education opportunities\”.
As stated on their website they will do \”everything [they] can to protect jobs and courses.\”
The strike action was voted for by UCU members in 63 out of the 67 universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and many others, ranging from the Royal College of Art to the Open University. Strike action was only undertaken at 47 sites.
The UCU believes the protest on Thursday to be the first strike action in further education colleges since 2008 and the first across universities since 2006.
The strike took place because the UCU believes strongly against the proposed plans to raise the retirement age, end the final salary pension scheme for new joiners and raise the contribution level from 6.35% to 7.5% of earnings.
UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt has stated, \”University and college staff really value their pension rights and have made their views of the detrimental changes crystal clear.
\”Staff are sick to the back teeth of being told that their pay and pensions need to be cut to pay for an economic crisis created by others\”. However, despite this, Hunt also stated that, \”Strike action is always a last resort\”.
With the protest taking place nationwide, much attention was focused upon Manchester Metropolitan University, which saw security staff removing staff members from picket lines across the University. The UCU\’s regional official Martyn Moss was reportedly \”astounded\” by the \”drastic and very petty nature\” of the action undertaken by MMU.
It is unlikely that many Oxford students would have been inconvenienced or even aware of any protest taking place due to the fact that the large majority have returned home for the Easter vacation. However, despite probable disturbances for students at other Universities that have not yet started their vacations, the NUS has made it clear that they are standing with the UCU.
NUS President, Aaron Porter, has stated, \”NUS has worked closely with UCU throughout our campaigns to oppose government cuts and stands in solidarity with their strike action.
\”Huge cuts to university budgets ideologically imposed by this government pose a massive threat to jobs and education\”.
The protest has not however received widespread support, with the chair of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, Keith Burnett, stating that \”Employers are extremely disappointed by UCU\’s decision to take industrial action.
\”There is much uncertainty in HE [higher education] at present and this course of action will have the potential to cause further difficulties for students and institutions\”.
The strike comes just days before the union-organised march in London on Saturday, in which over 100,000 people are expected to attend and protest against public sector cuts.