Industrial Action: Unions Strike for Fair Pay

Photo - Tomos Nolan

Photo – Tomos Nolan

ON THURSDAY 31st October all three of the major unions involved in higher education Unison, UCU and Unite went on strike in protest over pay. Various members of the University teaching and support staff went on strike in support, and picket lines were formed at the entrance to University campuses; a rally was also held in the Morlan Community Centre in town.

Staff affiliated with the unions stopped working at 12:00pm on Wednesday (30th) and did not attend work the following day. The pickets lines started at 6:00am on Thursday (31st) morning and at their peak were attended by over thirty people. This included members of all three unions as well as some student groups such as Labour and Defend Education.

The mood on the pickets was generally well natured, bar some minor disagreements about exactly were the pickets could stand, and the strikers were well received by the local community with plenty of people honking or stopping their cars to speak to the strikers. The meeting in Morlan was also well attended by striking staff, with students and members of the local community showing support. A spokesperson for Unison said he was pleased and grateful, both for the number of staff who showed up to picket and the number of staff who went on strike.

The principal issue of the strike was pay. The unions are outraged by the fact that over 300 members of the workforce are paid less than the living wage and feel that the university, which has a large surplus and can therefore afford a larger increase in pay than the flat 1% they have been offered. The unions claim that the wages of their members have, in real terms, fallen by 13% and are angry about the very large salary that senior university staff are paid. They therefore feel that their demands are more than reasonable.

This reporter explored Aberystwyth University’s Penglais campus and the number of students on campus was far less than normal, undoubtedly due to a number of lectures having been cancelled. However, some departments such as Sport and Exercise Science emailed students stating that lectures in the department were running as normal, and there were a portion of Support staff still working on campus. A number of students seemed to have little or no idea that the strike was occurring or what it was about. So whilst the strike did cause some disruption, the University was able to maintain functionality.

Will we see more action? It’s certainly a possibility; the mood at the rally was very much in favour of more action of some kind if the university was not willing to negotiate, so it’s very possible that we could see more interruption in the near future.