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28 Nov 2021

Ulster University staff vote for strike action

Cllr Harkin of People Before Profit backs lecturers in fight for pay rise and improved working conditions

Ulster University staff vote for strike action

Cllr Shaun Harkin: "Cancellation of classes will be entirely down to the belligerence and arrogance of university bosses and their disregard for workers and students."

People Before Profit councillor, Shaun Harkin, has backed Ulster University staff in their decision to go on strike.

More than 50 universities in the UK were balloted by the University & College Union (UCU) with 68.1 per cent of Ulster University's UCU members voting for strike action.

In a separate ballot asking if members would be in favour of industrial action other than walking out on strike, 88.45 per cent of Ulster University's union members voted a resounding 'yes'.

Queen's University in Belfast saw resounding majorities for both ballots as well with the national UK average for all UCU members being 70.1 per cent in favour of strike action with 84.9 per cent in favour of action other than a walkout.

The dispute is over pay and working conditions. The UCU have demanded a national yearly pay rise of £2500 for all staff as well as an end to race, gender and disability pay injustice; a framework to eliminate zero-hours and other casualised contracts; and meaningful action to tackle unmanageable workloads.

A date for strike action for the Ulster University campuses at Magee College, Coleraine and Jordanstown has yet to be set as negotiations that may prevent a walkout are expected to take place.

Cllr Shaun Harkin said: “University bosses need to take stock of the resounding vote by lecturers and staff for strike action over pay, conditions and pensions.

“People Before Profit send our solidarity to lecturers and staff at 54 universities, including Ulster University and Queen's, following their overwhelming declaration for strike action over pay, working conditions and pensions.

"People Before Profit fully back the UCU's demands. Wages of university staff has fallen 20 per cent in real terms since 2009.

“A recently published report documented a widespread workload and mental health crisis in universities. Nearly a third of staff say they feel emotionally drained from work pressure.

“University bosses are acting no differently from private sector bosses. This is about turning universities and education into factories for profit. A university shouldn't be run like a corporation focused primarily on churning out profit.

“Cancellation of classes will be entirely down to the belligerence and arrogance of university bosses and their disregard for workers and students.

“Cynical university bosses will look for any opportunity to divide and conquer by pitting students against staff.

“It needs to be remembered that university bosses didn't lift a finger to help students or staff during the pandemic. This is why solidarity between lecturers, staff and students is key.

“We encourage all students to join and support the newly formed 'Students Supporting Industrial Action' network. We'll do everything we can to back the demands of lecturers and staff.

“Across every sector of society employers and government are attempting to put the burden of the pandemic onto the shoulders of workers and the least well-off. The most effective way to respond is with people power resistance and solidarity.”

UCU general secretary Jo Grady added: “This result is a clear vote of no confidence in the so-called leaders of our universities, with staff telling them in no uncertain terms that they have had enough of pay and working conditions being run into the ground.

“UCU members have yet again beaten the Tory anti-union laws. Alongside our pension ballot result, this means we have a big mandate to take strike action, at a time of our choosing.

“It is scandalous that university vice-chancellors on overinflated salaries seem to think doing nothing on pay, casualisation and inequality is acceptable in a sector awash with money.

“We truly hope that disruption can be avoided, that is what staff and students alike all want. But this is entirely in the gift of employers who simply need to end their attacks on pensions, pay and working conditions and finally demonstrate they value their staff.”

Ulster University has been approached for comment.

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