Universities Should Apologize To Students In Case Of Staff Strike, Says Union Boss | The universities
University bosses should apologize for any further disruption to students returning to campus rather than staff who must vote on the strike, a union leader said.
Jo Grady, secretary general of the University and College Union (UCU), called on students to support faculty and other university staff who could lead pre-Christmas advocacy and further disrupt learning as campuses attempt to recover from the effects of the Covid pandemic.
Challenge letters were sent to university employers last Wednesday, and strike votes are set to open at 152 universities on October 18, in the latest chapter in a bitter and long-standing pension dispute , wages and working conditions, including the precariousness of the workforce.
After their best efforts during the pandemic, Grady said members were angry, morale was low and she was convinced there was huge support for the industrial action. In an interview with The Guardian, she said the fight was “too important to lose” and that there was “no choice” but to vote for strike action.
When asked if the union would apologize to students if their studies were further interrupted, Grady said, “I don’t think the staff should apologize for management decisions. We act because of management decisions.
Staff were at “breaking point” and if an apology were to be made, it should be the vice chancellors apologizing, she said.
The National Union of Students (NUS) has already shown its support. Its president, Larissa Kennedy, said: “Staff working conditions are learning conditions for students and we stand alongside our educators to fight for a fairer education system.
Staff who went on strike over similar issues in 2019-20 have received broad support from students. But after the disruption caused by the pandemic, with studies uploaded and students stranded for months in their rooms, there are fears that support could erode if classes are canceled again, with new demands for discounts on scholarship fees.
“I think the staff will be having conversations and I will be broadcasting messages with the NUS to the students because I think it’s really important that they understand,” Grady said. “But I think apologizing for something you are also a victim of would send a very mixed message about who should apologize to the students and who should fix it.”
The latest pension ballot, which affects teachers, technicians, researchers and administrators at institutions where staff are members of the University Pension Scheme (USS), was called after employers voted last month for pension cuts to cope with funding estimated at £ 14bn. shortfall in the scheme.
The UCU claims this would mean cuts of 35% for a typical member – employers say 7-15% – and argues that the assessment on which it is based is flawed. Seven of the 152 UK universities participating in the strike ballot will vote only on the USS, 83 on wages and working conditions and 62 others on both issues.
A spokesperson for USS employers said: “Instead of punishing students with more strikes, the union should formally propose a solution to the joint bargaining committee, the official forum for making changes to the scheme, and we will consult with employers on this. “