Staff and students join picket lines placed in universities across country
“The three unions have acted in solidarity and we will always act in solidarity.” – Unite
The staff of the University of Liverpool went on strike today, joined by students and groups supporting their action against pay cuts.
The protest was one of many carried out by universities across the country, and the third since October last year in response to the 13% pay cut in real terms to university staff in the past four years.
From the early morning, strikers occupied picket lines at entrances to campus and main University buildings, particularly the area surrounding the Sydney Jones Library. Staff and supporters also travelled around campus with placards and whistles throughout the day.
Strikers gathered at University Square at 12pm to deliver speeches before continuing in a march towards the city centre. Representatives of UCU, Unite and Unison and RMT spoke to the crowd, as well as a University of Liverpool student. Members of Liverpool Hope University and the Merseyside Pensioners Association and other organisations were also present.
A representative of UCU said:
“We are united against all their actions, and they need to see the strength of our unions. If we win our pay, we can win anything.”
He communicated the concern that “lots of students don’t understand” the motives of the strike and gave thanks to all students taking part.
Universities becoming a “knowledge factory” instead of a “place of thought”
The average salary rise of Vice Chancellors of universities across the UK last year was 8.1%, compared to the 1% for staff. Alongside this the joint unions and the NUS also criticise the introduction of market forces into higher education, Unite stating that this encourages “beauty contests” instead of “quality education.”
A member of Unite at University Square said that “We deserve a lot more. We bring the students to the campus, not them sitting up there. We work hard.”
Over three hundred picketers attended, with no onsite security as security staff refused to attend the campus. A representative of Unite said that the lack of health and safety displayed the “lack of concern that the University has for students and the public” as the University “haven’t bothered” to reply when asked for a risk assessment.
Strikers criticise “fat cat salaries”
The crowd expressed solidarity with the current strike of in London of the Underground staff members. A member of RMT expressed that austerity measures were an “attack on the whole of the working class” and the strikes “part of a national movement, long may that continue.”
NUS says with regard to the national strike that it “believes that lecturers and other staff in our universities and colleges should be properly supported and remunerated” though expresses “concerns where industrial action unnecessarily and seriously impacts on students – including on the marking and assessment of work, and the ability of students to graduate.”
Campus routine is expected to return to normal tomorrow, but transport workers are planning to strike at Lime Street Station.