Strikes, strikes, strikes: the beginning of 2023 has been full of strike action and walkouts from every direction – whether that be train drivers, nurses or ambulance staff. The UCU, the University and College Union, too, have held strikes this year, and there will be more to come. It can be confusing to keep up to date and to understand how it will affect your studies – keep reading for everything you need to know about the 2023 UCU strike action!
What are the strikes all about?
- The UCU is demanding a meaningful pay rise, and the end of ‘dangerously high workloads’. Employees were given a meagre 3% pay rise following a decade of salaries that were below inflation levels, and the UCU reported that university staff, on average, do 2 extra unpaid days a week.
- It’s also calling for the end of ‘insecure contracts’, also known as 0 hour contracts. Insecure contracts make it easier for an employee’s contract to be terminated, and mean employees could be expected to attend work on short notice, where they may struggle to arrange care for dependants or manage their time
- There is also a significant pension dispute. Until now, pension cuts have been put in place, and pension benefits stripped, seeing the average UCU member lose 35% of their guaranteed future retirement income. The UCU is demanding the reversal of this enactment.
- Considering the current cost of living crisis, this years’ strike action was due to be the biggest walkout in UCU history, before the dates were altered.
Strike talks so far and current strike days
- Strike days were originally planned discontinuously for 18 days: affecting students on the 1st, 9th 10th, 14th, 15th and 16th of February, and then after a pause planned to take place on the 15th, 16th, 17th, 20th, 21st and 22nd March 2023
- However, on the 17th of February, after the 7th strike day, the UCU announced that they had come to an agreement, having made ‘significant’ progress on the range of issues that were up for discussion. While negotiations continued, the UCU agreed to pause the industrial strike action for 2 weeks, where lectures and classes resumed as usual.
- Going forward, strikes are still due to go ahead in March, with an additional strike day. The confirmed strike dates as of now are Thursday 16th, Friday 17th, Monday 20th, Tuesday 21st and Wednesday 22nd March.
- You can keep up to date with the confirmed strike days on the UCU website.
How will it affect me?
- UCU membership is extensive, and staff from 150 universities are due to strike. This will affect approximately 2.5 million students. Therefore, if you are a UK undergraduate or postgraduate its more than likely to affect you
- Not everyone strikes! Even if they are part of the union, not every university staff member will necessarily go on strike. The only way to find out if your lecturer is striking is to ask them: but remember that they are not obligated to give you an answer.
- Every participating lecturer is different, and will give you varying levels of engagement. Some lecturers will not strike for all of the designated strike days, some will provide you with lecture materials and powerpoints to support your learning, and others will hold lectures online instead of on campus. Make sure to be vigilant with checking your emails to make sure that you are informed on how your lectures and classes will take place.
- You can access campus and study spaces as normal during strike days, but you will probably notice picket lines of university staff striking. Under ‘peaceful picketing’ guidelines, striking members are not allowed to require others to stop, listen or obstruct passers-by. Passers-by, students, and non-participating strike members are similarly expected to behave courteously towards strikers and maintain safety and respect.
How to make the most of the strike period
- It can be frustrating at first to realise how much potential teaching time you are missing out on. However, it can be useful to look at it from a different angle. Take this time to catch up and tick off some things off your to-do list. Catch up on seminar readings, write up lectures that you’ve been meaning to, or get ahead on essay writing.
- Plan ahead! You won’t be able to get in contact with lecturers during strike time, so make sure to do this beforehand. If you have a question about the essay that you need to start, or about how to find exam preparation materials, ask them before the strike period starts so you’re not disadvantaged.
- If you are working on your final year dissertation, make sure to know if your supervisor is striking or not. If they are, arrange a meeting if you need to and ask the necessary questions to make sure you won’t need their assistance during the strike time.
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Posted by Owen Redman
Co-founder of Roome