Newcastle University Students Stand in Solidarity with the UCU

Newcastle University Students Stand in Solidarity with the UCU

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University of Newcastle Students Stand in Solidarity with the UCU!

We as students of the University of Newcastle, are united in our anger at the university employers for forcing staff into taking strike action for the second time this academic year. The strike addresses two disputes (the USS pension scheme as well as the “Four Fights” of: casualisation, workload, pay and inequalities).

These disputes will of course have negative impacts on our education in the short term. However, it is important to tackle the long-term deterioration of staff conditions, which we understand is a product of the marketized model of higher education adopted by the policy makers and management. The issues at stake, are consequences of universities being run as competitive businesses, are issues we all share concern about. Students and staff alike will be short-changed if teachers are driven away to gain financial security elsewhere.

Nationally, pay in higher education has fallen by 20%, while staff are being expected to work harder and longer than ever before. With the vast majority of staff stuck on fixed-term contracts preferring a permanent contract. Furthermore, at Newcastle University the average pay of female staff is 17% lower than that of men. Similarly,
There is a 15% pay gap between BAME staff in comparison to their white colleagues.

Many of us have experienced casualised employment ourselves, and as such we understand short-term, unstable employment results not only in the loss of valuable staff but also significantly reduces the standard of education. Equally, as students we expect when entering the world of work, to be recompensed equally. Thich makes it extremely disappointing to know our Universities do not do so. We are seriously alarmed that such poor employment practises are being adopted, as they demean the status and reputation of the university which should uphold the highest standards.

Negotiations following the 8-day action in 2019 have demonstrated the possibility for these issues to be resolved, but the present offer from the UCEA is offensive and derisory. The failure to engage in any meaningful way with staff concerns about pay and workload, as well as the still insubstantial commitments on casualisation and inequalities, completely justify UCU in their call to renew strike action. It is discouraging after years of worsening conditions in the sector that it is only through strike action staff can even gain a hearing from their bosses, let alone win an adequate resolution of the disputes.

For the same reasons, while we share the frustrations of fellow students at lost contact hours, our anger will not be diminished by financial reimbursements. We are students, not consumers. Instead, we channel our anger into combating the commodification of our education, which brought us tuition fees and is part of the very same marketised model that has forced UCU into strike action. The only appropriate form of compensation for students is the end to fees and the abolition of student debt.

For all these reasons, we are in strong agreement with the UCU and NUS that this strike is in the best interest of students as well as staff.

We demand the following of:

Our elected representatives at Newcastle University Union should;

⦁ Demonstrate full support with the UCU by issuing a public statement.

The Vice-Chancellor Chris Day should;

⦁ Express full support and understanding for staff and call upon other Vice-Chancellors to do the same,
⦁ Put the first demand into practise by applying public pressure to the employer bodies (UK and UCEA) to get back around the negotiating table.

University management should;

⦁ Not apply a punitive approach to staff who decided to strike (for instance by forcing them to take pay deductions all at once, or by deducting pay for ‘action short of a strike’),
⦁ Not apply the kinds of punitive approach to students acting in solidarity with the strike as has been seen at the University of Reading and to which international students are especially vulnerable.

We sincerely hope that students and workers alike will unite and fight with us for a free and fair education!


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