With our education system being furiously destroyed by the Tories, it is supremely arrogant that the Tories discredited former education Czar, Michael Gove, is now seeking to become the leader of the Eton-toffs. But despite the Tories best efforts, attacks on our education system continue to be resisted by workers and parents alike.
This week thousands of workers at universities across the country have been taking part in a wave of strikes in a row over pay and conditions: management’s ungenerous offer being a measly 1.1%, which does nothing to address the real-terms pay cut of 14.5% that Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) members have suffered since 2009.
The union has also called for universities to commit to closing the gender pay gap and reducing the proportion of staff on casual and zero-hours contracts. UCU note that on average, female academics are paid £6,103 less a year than their male counterparts, while 49% of university teachers are on insecure contracts.
This poor treatment of workers is, however, not because of any real shortage of money in the university system — something that is more than illustrated by the average 6.1% increase in the pay of university vice-chancellors this year. Indeed, while real-term pay for UCU members continues to drop, with the amount spent on staff by universities as a percentage of total income also dropping, this is all taking place at the same time that the total of cash reserves of universities has rocketed by 72% to stand at over £21 billion.
UCU members at Loughborough University will be launching their own day of strike action tomorrow morning, with a picket line outside the Epinal Way entrance to the university from 7.30am. As reported in the Leicester Mercury (June 30), UCU local representative, Matthew Inglis, said:
“Our targeted strike action is a result of the employers’ failure to deal with the declining real-terms pay of university staff or tackle the problems of growing numbers of casual contracts and the persistent gender pay gap. Members have been left with no alternative but to take this action.”
As part of this continuing campaign, UCU members at Leicester University will be taking their day of strike action on Tuesday 5th July, to coincide with the national strike by the National Union of Teachers (NUT). They will also be marching in unison with concerned members of the public from the top of New Walk at 10.30am down to Jubilee Square, where a rally will be held from midday onwards.
NUT national executive member, Jane Nellist, explained that if the government fails to respond then the NUT’s executive has already “agreed to stand by its commitment of further days in the autumn term.” She added:
“Funding cuts are hitting schools, resulting in job losses and cuts to additional support for the most vulnerable pupils. This will get far worse in many schools if the Tories succeed in changing the formula used to fund schools, ironically called ‘fair funding’…
“Surveys of members already show that vast numbers of teachers are being denied pay increases they should be entitled to. If the Tories get their way this will only get worse. We have to stand and fight for increased funding to schools and education, guaranteed terms and conditions in all types of schools and resumed negotiations on teacher contracts to allow workload to be addressed.”
The Tories are in disarray, and education workers have a brilliant opportunity to score a victory against our weak and divided government. On top of this, it seems likely that there will be a General Election before the end of the year, and when Jeremy Corbyn beats the turn-coats in his own Party and is re-elected leader of the Labour Party, the people of Britain will have a golden opportunity to ditch the Tories lock, stock, and barrel.
In the meantime Jane Nellist says:
“You can support our strike by posting on social media, visiting our picket lines on the morning of the strike and if you can, attending the rallies being held in various cities across England. And if you are a parent, why not talk to other parents and start a support group.”