74 UK universities to commence a 2-week strike in February to fight inequality

By Layla Maguire

Seventy-four universities will take a blow from 14 days of strike action across 4 weeks from 20 February to 13 March 2020

As deadlines and exams approach, students will miss out on lectures and assistance at the most crucial time, and university employees participating in the strikes will lose out on pay and suffer the guilt of having to neglect their students when they need them most. This is not only detrimental to the health and well-being of both students and employees, but also the families that people are studying and working to support. 

The strikes have come as a result of universities failing to improve wages, equality, flexibility of contracts and workloads. The University and College Union (UCU) crossed a 50% turnout threshold in January, meaning legal industrial action must be taken. The strikes will happen along with “actions short of a strike” such as working no more than their contract states, not covering for absences and not rescheduling lectures that are affected by strikes. 

In November and December last year, 1 million students were affected as 60 universities saw UCU members refuse to work for 8 days. An additional 14 universities will be affected this time, putting another 200,000 students under a great deal of stress.  

UCU members will be voted in to represent the union and continue to take action after the 14-day strike if the issues are still left unresolved.

A university lecturer working on a casual contract stated: “I don’t get paid to prepare classes, for my office hours, or for marking. Adding all the hours together, I basically get paid below the minimum wage despite having a PhD. These strikes will really make me struggle to get by this year, as I’m still saving to make back what I lost in the last strikes. 

“I don’t want anyone else to go through this when they are in this position in the future, as this has been awful for my health and financial security. People like me are really between a rock and a hard place but ultimately the right thing is to strike as these conditions are atrocious. Students and staff all deserve better than this.”

Kiera White, a student in her final year of university shows her frustration as she said: “These are the second strikes this academic year and it’s extremely worrying. Our whole time at university has built up to this year and our dissertation, therefore not being able to attend classes and meet with supervisors will really affect our work. 

“The most frustrating thing is it will prolong us getting feedback on our dissertation chapter which is so essential to create the best dissertation we can. The final deadline is creeping up and our work this year will literally impact our lives. These strikes are really going to put us under more pressure and could be detrimental to our grades and future career.”

The strikes have been scheduled over four weeks, as follows:

Week 1: February 20 and 21

Week 2: February 24, 25 and 26

Week 3: March 2, 3, 4 and 5

Week 4: March 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13

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