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2019 UCU Strike Action

From 25th November, University staff will be on strike over pay and pensions. Find out more about what's happening, how it will affect you, and how to get involved.

Why are these strikes happening?

Members of the University and Colleges Union (which represents academics, lecturers, researchers, administrators, computing staff, librarians and postgraduate students) are striking between 25th Nov. and 4th Dec. over two national disputes:

  • PAY and EQUALITY - since 2009, the real-terms wages of university staff have fallen by over 20%, while workloads have increased. Casualised, hourly-paid jobs are more and more common, and the gender pay gap across the higher education sector is 12% (and here in Cambridge it’s even worse, at 19.6%). 

  • PENSIONS - workers in higher education are being forced to increase the amount they contribute towards their pensions, which amounts to another pay cut. This comes in the wider context of repeated attacks on university pensions following from the strikes in 2018.

When staff are underpaid and overworked, students' education also suffers. These strikes are not only about pay and pensions: they're about the future of our higher education system, and by standing with our staff we can fight to save it from collapse.

How do they affect me?

Union members have voted for industrial action between 25th Nov and 4th December, which will mean that lectures, seminars, and lab work organised by your faculties may be cancelled on these days. This will cause disruption to students, and the university might try to blame it on the staff themselves. Of course staff would much rather be teaching, researching, and doing the work they enjoy; they deeply regret the impact of strikes on their students. Strikes are part of their efforts to continue doing what they do—to preserve the higher education sector against the devastating cuts which threaten its future.

To show your support, avoid attending timetabled University activity or entering University owned sites during the strike period. You can also attend the daily rallies at 12.30 on King’s Parade.

Striking workers will form picket lines outside Old Schools, Downing Site, New Museums (Downing St. entrance), Sidgwick, West Cambridge, Education and Engineering. These aim to encourage people not to entering those sites. Instead of crossing the picket line - stand with your staff! They’re a wonderful opportunity for staff and students to come together and imagine an alternative vision of education. We will also be coordinating strike support breakfast runs from the SU Lounge every morning, so fill in the spreadsheet online to get involved. 

UCU have created some FAQs if you have any more questions about the strikes.

Student welfare during the strikes

The GU and CUSU believe that supporting these strikes is beneficial to student welfare, but we are also offering targeted support for students at this time:

  • The Students’ Unions’ Advice Service offers free, confidential and independent support and will be open throughout the strikes (01223 746999 / advice@studentadvice.cam.ac.uk).

  • If you are dissatisfied with the University, you can complain via the University’s complaints procedure (studentcomplaints.admin.cam.ac.uk), or by emailing your faculty, copying in your Head of School, the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education and the Vice-Chancellor’s Office. (Email templates for this, and to email supporting our striking staff, are here).

  • Many support services, including the Disability Resource Centre (DRC) and University Counselling Service (UCS), may have staff who are on strike. The DRC and UCS are both located in the Student Services Centre (SSC) on the New Museums site and there will be a picket line at the Downing Street entrance to the site. However, UCU have confirmed that students will not be prevented from accessing the Student Service building, University Counselling Service or Disability Resource Centre. There will not be a picket line on the Bene’t Street entrance to the New Museums Site and students will still be able to access the Student Services Centre via this entrance.

  • Given that some DRC and UCS staff will be on strike, students may wish to show solidarity with them by rescheduling their appointment or calling in sick if necessary. However, we recognise that this will not be possible for all students who regularly rely on these services and we would never ask students to put their own health and welfare at risk. College-provided services (e.g. college counsellors) will be unaffected by strike action so you can still access their support.

  • The SU Lounge at 17 Mill Ln. will be available as an alternative study space throughout the strike period (Mon-Fri., 9am-5pm), and you can join the Facebook group ‘Strikebridge’ for more information about study spaces in Cambridge, or use spacefinder.lib.cam.ac.uk. Some activities (e.g. seminars) can be conducted as group study sessions away from University sites - colleges are not behind picket lines, and nor are cafes!

  • If you are a postgraduate researcher, or any other student who has compulsory laboratory sessions or needs to submit a thesis, remember that UCU are not trying to stop you attending compulsory non-timetabled activities, such as personal use of laboratories. It is still best to avoid crossing picket lines to reach these sites.

More tailored guidance for MCRs is also available here.

Alternative learning

CUSU and Cambridge Defend Education are organising a mentoring scheme - sign up online (cusu.co.uk/ucustrike2019) to take part. There is also a book-sharing scheme, arranged on Facebook (see ‘Strikebridge’), and we encourage you to arrange informal study sessions with your classmates to discuss your work.

UCU are running an exciting programme of teach-outs every afternoon - check out their website for more information: ucu.cam.ac.uk