Confident pickets at Imperial College have launched a strike and boycott

University workers are striking back against punitive pay deductions and over other local battles.

In several universities, bosses are stopping all pay for those who are refusing to mark and assess students even if staff are continuing to teach, lecture and support students as normal. The boycott by UCU union members is part of the continuing battle over pay rise, equality, contracts and conditions.

University of Winchester UCU members struck from Wednesday after bosses announced that they will make wage deductions of 100 percent  for anyone taking part in the marking and assessment boycott (Mab). Strikes are set to last for at least six days.

And workers at Sheffield Hallam University also began a five-day strike this week.

University workers from Imperial College and Soas University, both in London, struck this week.

Around 100 strikers and supporters joined a rally on Wednesday at Soas. Workers took to picket lines again on Thursday and plan to strike on Friday and then for three days next week over 100 percent  pay deductions for “partial performance”.

Not far away at Imperial College university, workers from the UCU and Unite unions struck together on Thursday.

Imperial College bosses have previously withdrawn from a collective bargaining agreement with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (Ucea). This means that workers aren’t part of the national UCU fight for better pay and are forced to call strikes as part of a local dispute.

UCU members at Imperial are also taking part in their own local Mab.

Simon, a UCU member, told Socialist Worker, “I’m seriously struggling with bills, all of us are. It’s important for me to be part of this strike, not just because I am struggling but also for those on part-time and casualised contracts who are finding it hard to live.

“The fact that workers in UCU, Unite and Unison have all voted for strikes shows the determination to take action.”

Mark is the branch secretary for the Imperial College branch of Unite. Members of Unite at the university work in professional services and are largely lab technicians.

He told Socialist Worker, “In the past year we have seen inflation soar to double figures, but the bosses have refused to give us the pay rise that reflects this.

“Imperial isn’t poor, even if the bosses say it is. They even try to say that high energy costs are why they can’t give us a rise. But they don’t care that workers can’t pay their energy bills.

“And the university isn’t so poor that the bosses don’t have enough money to keep spending on new buildings.”

Imperial College currently has £1.8 billion in reserves and an operating surplus amounting to twice as much as it would cost to pay workers the 10.5 percent pay rise they have demanded.

UCU striker Vijay explained that workers have been forced to keep striking because the bosses have offered measly pay offers for the last two academic years.

Rallying at Soas on Wednesday (Picture: Guy Smallman)

“Last academic year, that’s 2022-23, we were offered a 3.3 percent pay ‘rise’ which effectively amounted to a 7 percent pay cut.

“And for this year, 2023-24, we were offered 5.2 percent, meaning we’ll still face a 5 percent cut. We want a 10.5 percent pay rise, at least.

“In a consultative ballot, all three campus unions voted to reject the latest pay offer.”

The Unison union has yet to put in the notice for strikes. But if it does all three unions could strike

UCU branch secretary Roddy Slorach told Socialist Worker, “We believe our action at Imperial can be effective.

“The Mab here and across the country has become increasingly effective as more universities move forward with negotiations. So I think we’re in a strong position now.”

The strikes should not just be about deductions but strengthening the fight to win.

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