Staff at four Manchester higher education facilities have gone on strike in protest against pay and working conditions.
The University and College Union (UCU) has labelled the strikes a ‘fight for the future of higher education’.
Staff at the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Salford and the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) are all involved in the dispute over pay and working conditions and there was strike action yesterday and today. More walk-outs are planned from next week.
UCU branch secretary and University of Manchester professor Dr Simeon Gill, said that staff “would like to see leadership – people taking responsibility for the decisions they make locally, and setting local targets that allow national goals to be met”.
Dr Gill added that while the industrial action will temporarily interrupt studies, it will benefit students and society in the long-run.
“We cannot educate students to be proficient and capable as independent researchers and learners to join or lead a workforce, and then in the same situation, tell them that they will inherit a worse working environment than we had,” he explained.
He praised Banji Adewumi, the new director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), who he said has already responded positively to complaints, but claimed the senior leadership team need to empower her for any chance of meaningful change.
Some students expressed their support for the strike today, saying it was “sad” that industrial action was necessary.
One student who wished to remain anonymous said: “The staff deserve good conditions and pay – there shouldn’t have to be a strike.”
What has the university said?
A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “It is deeply regrettable that UCU members have voted for strike action. We do recognise how important pay and employment conditions are to colleagues and we take those views very seriously.
“However, inevitably any kind of industrial action causes serious disruption for our community, and particularly our students, after such an extended period of pandemic upheaval.
“Annual pay awards are negotiated nationally by UCEA and UUK respectively, so we are unable to make any changes at a local, Manchester level.
“We continue to work hard to address other aspects of employment which were raised in the ballot such as the nature of contracts and gender and ethnicity pay gaps.
“We’d like to reassure our students that we will do everything we can to minimise any impact on their teaching, learning and wider experience”.
Three more days of walk-outs are planned for Monday 28 February, Tuesday 1 March and Wednesday 2 March, with the final day of action taking place to coincide with the National Union of Students student strike.